April 10, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A pair of comeback wins provided plenty of highlight-reel material for No. 23 Notre Dame Saturday at Melissa Cook Stadium, as the Irish swept visiting BIG EAST Conference foe USF 4-2 and 10-1. The nation’s leader in team batting average entering the day, Notre Dame (28-6 overall, 7-0 BIG EAST) racked up 16 hits in the twinbill including three doubles and three home runs. Two of the homers came off the bat of Heather Johnson and her game-two grand slam was part of an eight-run fourth inning.
Brittany O’Donnell (7-1) took a no-hitter into the fifth and final inning of game two before giving up a two-out bloop single to Gina Kafalas.
The sweep kept Notre Dame on top of the BIG EAST standings as the only team unscathed in league play.
Notre Dame meets USF at 12:00 p.m. (ET) in the series finale on Sunday.
USF (18-18, 3-2) struck first in the opener. Tara Toscano singled home Janine Richardson after Jody Valdivia (21-3) issued a pair of walks to start the game. A third walk loaded the bases with no outs but the Irish defense answered the challenge beginning with the first of Valdivia’s two strikeouts on the day. Valdivia then got Cat Olnick to fly out to center, where Alexa Maldonado rifled a throw to the plate to a ready Kristina Wright, who laid a tag on Kafalas to end the inning with a banger.
Notre Dame responded with a two-out Johnson home run in the bottom half of the first. Johnson fouled off four straight pitches before landing a shot beyond the centerfield fence. The Irish took the lead for good when Alexia Clay singled home Christine Lux.
The gloves stayed warmed for the Irish in the second with Sadie Pitzenberger wowing the crowd with a gamble in left field that paid off. With one Bull runner on base, Pitzenberger hustled in and made a full-extension catch for the final out of the frame.
Pitzenberger’s two-bagger count for the season hit double digits with a knock to right-center in the fifth. She went to third on Katie Fleury’s fly ball to center and scored on Johnson’s single.
JoJo Medina brought USF within one, 3-2, with a solo home run to deep left in the sixth. Brianna Jorgensborg matched Medina’s solo homer with one of her own in the home half. Jorgensborg, who homered for the second time in as many games, finished the game with her third straight statline featuring at least one hit, run and RBI.
Valdivia gave up two earned runs on three hits and walked only one batter after the first inning. Lindsey Richardson (8-4) tossed 5.2 innings for the Bulls and was taken to town for four earned runs on eight hits.
Two rare defensive errors led to an unearned USF run in the first, putting the Irish in position to work from behind once again. In fact, errors plagued both teams throughout the second game, as each squad finished with three errors apiece.
Lux recorded the first hit by either team with a lead-off single in the second. Clay then ripped an RBI-double to right to tie the game, 1-1.
Johnson was credited with sacrifice fly in the third, which pushed across Maldonado for what would prove to the game-winning run.
The bulk of the day’s excitement came in the eight-run fourth inning, which featured Lux alone scoring two runs and posting a pair of hits. The Irish used five hits and two USF errors to do the damage. Jorgensborg had a two-RBI double to right and Johnson later followed with her grand slam.
O’Donnell struck out six and walked three without giving up an earned run. Brittany Bowles (4-7) went 3.1 innings and allowed six earned runs to score on six hits. Candace Howell followed by surrendering two unearned Irish runs on two hits in 0.2 innings.
Johnson’s five RBI marked a career best, bettering the previous total of four accomplished six times throughout her career.
Lux finished a perfect 3-for-3 and scored three times.