Notre Dame hoisted its sixth BIG EAST Championship trophy Saturday at Louisville's Ulmer Stadium after handing No. 19 DePaul a 1-0 defeat.

Defense Leads Notre Dame To BIG EAST Crown

May 9, 2009

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Christine Lux made a one-out diving catch at first base and doubled off DePaul pinch-runner Lynsey Ciezki at third in the bottom of the seventh to give the Notre Dame softball team its sixth BIG EAST Conference Championship title. The effort sparked one of two huge double plays for the Irish, who helped strand five Blue Demons on base behind the efforts of pitcher Brittney Bargar’s five-hitter. Bargar was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Also earning accolades for Notre Dame (41-15) were all-tournament team members Jody Valdivia, Heather Johnson, Linda Kohan and Christine Lux.

“What a great way to end such a great game,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “We tip our hats to DePaul for their efforts. We had to be on our best to beat a great team and a great program. But our girls have fought hard all season and this is a tremendous way to build momentum on the road to the Women’s College World Series.”

The 1-0 win over No. 19 DePaul (37-12) Saturday at Ulmer Stadium gave the University of Notre Dame its 101st BIG EAST title. Previously, the last softball title came in 2006 coming into today’s final contest which was Notre Dame’s 10th trip to the final game since the Irish joined the league in 1996.

The Fighting Irish receive the BIG EAST’s automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Championship which starts on May 15. The NCAA Softball Selection Show will air May 10 (Sunday) at 10:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU.

Notre Dame’s one run in the sixth was the difference in the game. The Irish needed just two hits to secure the win.

Dani Miller snow-coned a shot to right field to start the second but two of the next three Blue Demons reached safely with base hits. Bargar (23-10) helped herself by smoothly fielding a Shea Warren grounder back to the circle to keep the game scoreless. Bargar would next allow a two-out double in the fourth to Tara Voss and walked Lauren Frankiewicz before striking out Brittany Yniquez to keep the Blue Demons at bay.

The Irish had a chance to strike in the top of the fourth with two runners on the corners and two away. Linda Kohan reached on an Amber Patton fielding error and was replaced on first by pinch-runner Christine Farrell. Farrell stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and Lux drew a walk. Miller fouled a ball back to the netting on the third base side of home plate that was snagged by a diving Jackie Tarulli-Fisher.

Erin Marrone looked at five pitches in the fifth before tagging Becca Heteniak (24-7) for Notre Dame’s first hit of the game, a one-out single to left-center. The Irish began to pick up on Heteniak’s stuff as Alexia Clay battled off 10 pitches before grounding out to Voss at short.

The defense stood strong behind Bargar in the bottom of the fifth by taking care of three hard infield grounders to turn away the side.

The top of the Irish lineup awaited Heteniak in the sixth and managed to score one run on Heather Johnson’s long RBI double to the wall. Beth Northway drew a walk two batters before Johnson’s one-out crusher to right-center and beat the throw home to score the winning run.

Katie Fleury committed her first error at shortstop since April 4 in the bottom of the sixth, but made up for it one batter later by rifling a throw to first after gloving Kohan’s toss at second to put the final touch on a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.

Francowicz barely missed a game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh with a deep double to right-center. Samantha Morgan singled to first base to put runners on the corners and represented the winning run for the Blue Demons. After a Blue Demon stolen base that put two runners in scoring position, Lux’s defensive prowess put the nail in the coffin for the Irish victory.

Bargar struck out three with one walk in the win while Heteniak allowed one earned run with five strikeouts in 7.0 innings.