April 27, 2013
CHICAGO – The University of Notre Dame softball team extended its season-high winning streak to 11 games with a pair of victories Saturday at DePaul, 6-3 and 5-2 in a doubleheader at Caccitore Stadium.
The Irish (37-10, 17-1 BIG EAST) claimed outright first place in the conference standings with the game two win after Georgetown upset No. 7/8 Louisville 4-2 earlier in the day. Notre Dame and the Cardinals meet in the BIG EAST regular season series finale next weekend at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Laura Winter (23-8) picked up the victory in game one, tossing a complete game with five strikeouts against Blue Demon hitters. The reigning USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week went 4-for-5 (.800) at the plate for the day, smashing two home runs and chipping in five RBI.
Brittany O’Donnell (12-2) was solid in the circle in the second contest, surrendering only two earned runs in seven innings, striking out six. O’Donnell has now won her last six decisions.
Notre Dame and DePaul meet in the series finale Sunday at noon (CT) at Caccitore Stadium.
DePaul took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning, as Samantha Dodd hit a solo home run over the right field fence to give the Blue Demons a 1-0 advantage. Laura Winter kept DePaul from pushing another run across in the frame, forcing Megan Coronado to fly out to left field to end the frame.
Winter answered for her own cause in the top of the second, drilling a laser solo shot off Hannah Penna (8-7) on a 3-1 count over the left field fence to tie the game at 1-1.
The Irish got the bats working again in the top of the third inning. Chloe Saganowich grooved the first pitch she saw from Penna into the right center gap for a double. A Kelsey Thornton groundout moved Saganowich to third base. Emilee Koerner made the Blue Demons pay, sending a 3-1 offering out and over the wall in left for her 10th home run of the season to give Notre Dame a 3-1 lead.
DePaul cut into the lead in the bottom of the third after Kirsten Verdun chipped an RBI single into center field, scoring Dodd from second base. The Irish limited the damage by forcing Penna to pop out to Saganowich at shortstop.
Winter hung a zero in the Blue Demon half of the fourth inning, striking out Ali Warren swinging to end the DePaul frame.
DePaul moved the tying run to scoring position at third base in the bottom of the sixth, but a Warren strikeout and a foul out by Gena Lenti to Katey Haus in foul ground halted the Blue Demon momentum.
The Irish loaded the bases against Mary Connolly in the top of the seventh, and an Amy Buntin sacrifice fly scored Thornton to up the advantage to 4-2. Winter followed with a sharp two-run single up the middle, plating Koerner and Jenna Simon to extend the Notre Dame cushion to 6-2.
Connolly answered in the bottom of the seventh inning, lining an RBI single to score Allie Braden to trim the deficit to 6-3. Winter was not fazed, preventing the Blue Demons from pushing across another run despite loading the bases with no outs to hammer down the Notre Dame win.
Amy Buntin hung in for a two-out single off DePaul ace Kirsten Verdun (19-10) in the top of the first inning to keep the Notre Dame half alive. Laura Winter made the most of the RBI opportunity, crushing a 3-1 offering deep and out over the left field wall to vault the Irish on top 2-0.
Brittany O’Donnell was in command against the DePaul order in the bottom of the first inning, striking out Allie Braden and Verdun looking to end the frame. The senior right-hander allowed only a bunt single in the Blue Demon second, striking out Hannah Penna and Staci Bonezek to keep DePaul off the scoreboard.
Verdun aided her own cause leading off the bottom of the fourth, taking O’Donnell deep and gone to opposite field for a solo home run to bring DePaul within one run at 2-1. O’Donnell held the Blue Demons scoreless the rest of the inning, stranding a pair of runners on base.
Katey Haus grooved a two-out, two-run triple to the gap in right center field against Verdun in the top of the fifth inning, scoring Emilee Koerner from third base and pinch runner Carly Piccinich from first base to up the Notre Dame lead to 4-1. Cassidy Whidden followed with an RBI triple of her own into right field, scoring Haus to up the cushion to 5-1.
DePaul pushed a run across in the bottom of the fifth, as a Mary Connolly sacrifice fly scored Braden from third base (5-2). The Blue Demons were unable to capitalize further, as O’Donnell slammed the door to maintain Notre Dame’s three-run lead.
DePaul had two runners reach in the bottom half of the seventh inning, but consecutive ground ball outs closed the game for O’Donnell, giving Notre Dame the series win.