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ND Softball: Johnson’s grand slam secures win over Purdue

Jack Yusko | Friday, April 1, 2011

The bases were loaded, there were two outs and Purdue was mounting a sixth-inning comeback Thursday when Irish senior captain Heather Johnson hit a grand slam out of the park to secure a 7-5 Notre Dame victory over Purdue.

“The turning point in the game was definitely Heather’s grand slam,” junior outfielder Alexa Maldonado said. “It gave Laura [Winter] and the rest of the team some breathing room. They were a good hitting team, so we knew we would need more runs to secure the win.”

Notre Dame (18-7) defeated Purdue (19-8) at home despite two major Boilermaker rallies coming during the fifth and seventh innings. The Irish defense started the game strong, allowing the offense to gain the lead and hold it instead of having to regain lost ground.

“[Freshman pitcher] Laura Winters started the game with a scoreless first inning, giving us the chance to jump head. I led off the game with a single and was able to score on [senior catcher] Lex Clay’s opposite field homerun,” Maldonado. “Lex’s homerun was the start to our win — everything just rolled on from there.”

The game may have turned with Johnson’s four-run homer that put the Irish up 7-2, but it wasn’t over until the final strikeout. Purdue had rallied again in the seventh inning to draw within two runs, and with two runners on base and only one out, things looked far from done.

“To be honest, we were very calm [during Purdue’s rallies],” Maldonado said. “We were confident in our batters the whole game and knew that we would do whatever it took to win.”

Winters managed to ice the Boilermakers in the top of the seventh, ending the game with a score of 7-5. She logged a career-high 12 strikeouts in a crucial non-conference game. Irish batters struck out only twice.

“After the last out we were both relieved and excited,” Maldonado said. “Purdue was a very good team, but we managed to hold them for the majority of the game.”

This victory was a much-needed boost for the Irish after a tough loss to a talented Western Michigan team earlier in the week. They face Providence in three Big East conference games this weekend.

“We’re looking to continue getting better every day and play our game,” Maldonado said. “When we play Notre Dame softball, we play our best. We’re going to give Providence our best games.”

The Irish will meet Providence in a doubleheader Saturday at 12 and 2 p.m. as well as Sunday at 11 a.m. in Melissa Cook Stadium.