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ND Softball: Winter throws second no-hitter of career

Mike Monaco | Monday, April 23, 2012

Three games. Three wins. Two days. One winning pitcher. One no-hitter.

Sophomore pitcher Laura Winter started all three games for the Irish in their series against DePaul, which started with Winter earning her second career no-hitter in a 3-0 win Saturday. The no-hitter was the first-ever at Melissa Cook Stadium, which opened in 2008.

The right-hander from San Diego – who also tossed a no-hitter against South Florida as a freshman – retired the first 13 batters she faced before walking DePaul senior outfielder Katelyn Braget in the fifth inning, losing the perfect game.

Despite the historic performance, Winter said she was unaware of the situation until after the game.

“I really didn’t notice it until [senior first baseman] Dani [Miller] comes in,” Winter said.

“She is always the first one to notice it. I remember at USF last year she came running in, she’s screaming and I’m like ‘We won, yeah!’ but she’s like, ‘No, you had a no-hitter!’ It was the same way [Saturday]. I had no idea until she came running in and jumping in, and then I was really excited.”

Winter was back in the circle for the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, turning in four more shutout innings before junior pitcher Brittany O’Donnell replaced her.

Notre Dame (26-13, 8-3 Big East) broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth, when junior catcher Amy Buntin ripped an RBI single and Miller blasted a two-run home run to give the Irish a 3-0 lead.

Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said the key to scoring runs off DePaul sophomore pitcher Kirsten Verdun, who, like Winter, started all three games, was scoring early and giving the middle of the order chances to drive in runs.

“In all three games, we scored in the first three innings,” Gumpf said. “I think that our top of the lineup did a great job of setting the table for us. [Junior rightfielder] Kelsey [Thornton] and [senior centerfielder Alexa Maldonado] started us off, and then Amy Buntin came up big three times in three games. So I think the top of the lineup did a great job of really setting the table to be able to give us opportunities to score.”

O’Donnell ran into trouble in the fifth, as the Blue Demons (26-17, 8-6) scored three runs of their own, forcing Winter back into the game. Winter got out of trouble, finishing the game without allowing another run.

The Irish scored what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the sixth when Maldonado scored on a wild pitch to give Notre Dame a 4-3 lead.

In Sunday’s series finale, the Irish offense came out aggressively, scoring twice in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.

“The reason why we were very successful [Sunday] was because we scored early, and our pitching staff kept us in the ballgame every single inning,” Gumpf said.

Winter kept the Irish in the game, as she breezed through the first three innings, before allowing runners to reach first and third in the fourth. With one out, DePaul senior rightfielder Katelyn Braget hit a high chopper over the head of freshman third baseman Katey Haus to plate a run and make it a 2-1 game.

Winter managed to get out of the jam, but the Blue Demons were back threatening in the sixth inning with runners on first and second and one out. However, Winter forced junior outfielder Samantha Dodd to line out to Irish freshman second baseman Jenna Simon, who fired the ball to Miller at first to complete the double play.

Winter then cruised through the seventh inning, securing the win.

“These wins were huge nationally, regionally and in the Big East conference,” Gumpf said. “It just puts us in a really good position to take a spot away from DePaul [in the Big East] and take it ourselves. DePaul is a really good ball club, and they are going to be in the regional tournament. They are the type of team we are going to be playing in the postseason, so this is exactly what we wanted to do.”

The Irish look to make it six wins in a row Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Melissa Cook Stadium when they take on Michigan State.


Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]