April 3, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame entered Saturday’s BIG EAST Conference softball game with Rutgers leading the nation in batting average at .351, but it was timely hitting, small ball and the usual stellar defense – not to mention another solid outing from junior Jody Valdivia – that paced the Irish to an 8-0 victory over the Scarlet Knights at Melissa Cook Stadium. A doubleheader was originally scheduled, but rain delays totaling just under four hours and travel restrictions forced the teams to play just one.
The Fighting Irish (26-6 overall, 5-0 BIG EAST) collected only five hits in the game but four were of the four-bag variety, three of which came with a runner on base: junior Brianna Jorgensborg, senior Christine Lux and sophomore Dani Miller each smacked two-run home runs, while senior Alexia Clay made it back-to-back with Miller in the fifth inning to end the game in unconventional walk-off fashion.
After beginning the season 1-for-22, Jorgensborg now has five hits and seven RBI in her last 11 at bats, including two doubles and the aforementioned round-tripper.
Notre Dame also made good use of three walks, two hit batters, three stolen bases, two sacrifice bunts and a sacrifice fly in the victory, stranding just two runners on the day. The Irish also went errorless for the sixth consecutive game, extending their streak of errorless chances as a team to 137.
Valdivia (20-3) ran her BIG EAST regular-season winning streak to 14 in her 10th complete-game shutout of the year, working around six hits and punching out five without a walk. Since the beginning of the 2009 season, Valdivia is now 15-0 with a 1.34 ERA in BIG EAST play (including tournament games). She is on pace to shatter the Notre Dame single-season records for both shutouts (15 by Terri Kobata in 1994) and wins (30 by Brittney Bargar in 2008).
Holly Johnson (5-4) took the loss for Rutgers (12-17, 0-2), yielding six earned runs in 4.2 innings with three walks and four strikeouts.
Sadie Pitzenberger sadly saw her school-best 26-game hitting streak come to a close, as she struck out in her final at-bat after being plunked in her first two plate appearances. The strikeout was her first in 43 trips to the dish, as she ranked as the 11th toughest player in the nation to strike out entering the series.
After being hit to open the first inning, Pitzenberger hustled to third when nobody was covering the bag on junior Katie Fleury’s eighth sacrifice of the season, which tied her for the BIG EAST lead. Johnson escaped damage, though, by punching out Irish senior Heather Johnson and inducing Miller to pop out to shortstop.
Valdivia left the bags full in the second – for the 13th time this season – getting Rutgers’ RBI leader Mikelyn Messina to pop virtually straight up and eventually into the glove of Lux to end the threat. The Scarlet Knights had loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter, but Valdivia was once again up to the task.
The Irish benefited from a Rutgers miscue and the hot bat of Jorgensborg to grab a 2-0 lead in the next half-inning. Third baseman Brittney Lindley mishandled Clay’s grounder to begin the frame and sophomore Kristina Wright bunted Clay to second – although she almost reached first safely well when second baseman Jennifer Harabedian bobbled Johnson’s throw to first. Jorgensborg then put a charge into one, knocking a 3-0 offering just to the left of the 220 sign in center field.
The home run pitch ended up being the last one issued by Johnson before the rains came, forcing a delay of one hour and 44 minutes.
Notre Dame added another run in the inning after the delay; sophomore Alexa Maldonado walked after a 10-pitch battle, Pitzenberger was plunked for a second time, and after a double steal, Fleury delivered a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 3-0.
Just like the first time, an Irish run meant another rain delay, with this one spanning over two hours. After the hiatus, Valdivia stifled another Rutgers rally, getting some defensive help from Jorgensborg in right in the third. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Jorgensborg made a full-extension diving grab in right field on Kylee Bishop’s drive to save a run, and Valdivia proceeded to send down Mandy Craig and Ashley Bragg on strikes to hold Rutgers scoreless.
Lux skied a long two-run home run to right following a Heather Johnson walk for the fourth and fifth Irish tallies of the game in the bottom of the inning. The dinger was the 43rd of Lux’s career, extending her school record, and her 10th this year.
Freshman Kelsey Thornton swiped her 10th bag and scored in the third inning. No Irish player has stolen more than 10 bases in a season since 2007 (13 from Stephanie Brown).
Notre Dame returns to the field on Wednesday (April 7) for a doubleheader with Bowling Green at Melissa Cook Stadium. First pitch of game one is set for 4:00 p.m. (ET).