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ND Softball: Notre Dame starts Big East play

Megan Finneran | Friday, March 22, 2013

The Irish travel to New Jersey this weekend to open Big East play with a three-game set against Seton Hall. 

Notre Dame (19-7) will play two games Saturday afternoon and one Sunday.

“The team goals this weekend are to leave a lasting imprint on the Big East,” senior catcher Amy Buntin said. “We want to take one game at a time and game-by-game go undefeated in Big East play.”

The squad comes off a four-game sweep at the Highlander Classic in California last weekend, defeating both Northern Illinois and Iona twice in two days. Over the spring break week, Notre Dame went 7-2 overall. The Irish will look to carry this momentum into their weekend series against the Pirates.

“Sweeping the Highlanders will give us great momentum rolling into our conference games and give us the confidence we need to dominate in the Big East,” Buntin said.

Notre Dame will continue to rely on the pitching duo of junior Laura Winter and senior Brittany O’Donnell to take control of the mound. 

Winter was recently named to the Big East Conference Softball Weekly Honor Roll. She leads the Big East this season with 107.2 innings pitched and 126 strikeouts and has won nine of her last 10 decisions. This weekend will give her an opportunity to continue her streak.

Joining Winter on the Weekly Honor Roll was sophomore third-baseman Katey Haus, whose batting has guided the Irish offensively. At the Highlander Classic she became the first Irish player to earn multiple RBIs in three straight games this season. Over the week in California she raised her season batting average 61 points. The whole squad has been working to perform at her level.

“We have been mainly focusing on hitting the inside and off-speed pitches this week,” Buntin said. “We learned from spring break we could be a little better in this area.”

The Pirates (10-11) come off a 1-4 weekend in California at the San Diego State Tournament. They took a win against Miami of Ohio but struggled against Texas Tech, Texas-Arlington, San Diego State and Colorado State.

Seton Hall relies offensively on a string of underclassmen. In its most recent game, the team’s three hits came from sophomores Danielle DeStaso and Sara Haefeli and freshman Yasmin Harrell. The older Irish squad will use its experience to capitalize on this.

While they come off a rough week, the Pirates will look to utilize their home-field advantage. This will be the squad’s first home series of the season.

Play will begin Saturday at 12 p.m. at the Essex County Mike Sheppard, Sr. Field in South Orange, N.J.