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ND Softball: Young Irish travel to Calif. to begin season

Katie Heit | Thursday, February 16, 2012

After losing eight seniors to graduation, the inexperienced Irish begin their season with a tough weekend as they compete in the Campbell Cartier Classic in San Diego.

The slate of games begins today with a doubleheader against San Diego State, followed by a game against San Diego. The Irish will face Oregon State and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday before rounding out the tournament on Sunday against Boise State.

Junior catcher Amy Buntin said she is eager to see what this year’s team is capable of.

“Compared to last year, this team has the ability to play with speed and quickness,” Buntin said. “We have put in a lot of preparation scrimmaging ourselves in Loftus, so it will be nice to compete outside against some tough competition.”

Buntin said she sees Oregon State as Notre Dame’s toughest competition this weekend, but senior outfielder Alexa Maldonado said the Irish are unfamiliar with many of the teams they will face this weekend.

“We are going out there and focusing on playing,” Maldonado said. “We are going out there and focusing on playing our game. In our eyes, the competition doesn’t matter. As long as we play Notre Dame softball, we can beat whoever we face.”

As one of four seniors, Maldonado said her personal goal for the season is to be a strong leader for the younger girls.

“I want to help this team get to the next level,” Maldonado said. “Not only by my playing ability but as a leader.”

One of the talented newcomers to the roster, freshman catcher Cassidy Whidden said she is looking forward to the start of her first collegiate season. She said that her team is ready to face competition outside of practice.

“For the past five weeks we have been working really hard to make ourselves better,” Whidden said. “I just can’t wait to see what this team will do this season.”

Maldonado said most of the team’s preseason work has taken place on indoor practice facilities, which adds a challenge to tournament.

“The most difficult part of this weekend will be getting used to playing outside on the dirt and grass,” Maldonado said. “It’s going to be different, but we are so excited to just get out there and play in beautiful weather.”

Maldonado said the team has one goal in mind.

“We are a great group of girls all working toward the same goal — to be the 2012 College World Series champions,” she said.

The Irish will begin play in the Campbell Cartier Classic with a game against San Diego State today at 5 p.m.