April 27, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. – The temperature hit 92 degrees at the USF Softball Stadium but No. 22 Notre Dame stormed Tampa with a cold front as freshman pitcher Laura Winter notched the first no-hitter of her career during a 1-0 BIG EAST Conference softball win over USF. Winter punched out nine Bulls as 51 of her 77 offerings went for strikes while recording the 37th no-hitter in program history.
Jody Valdivia pitched the last Irish no-hitter in 2010, and Winter became the first freshman to accomplish the feat since Kristin Schmidt did so in 2001.
USF (32-17 overall, 12-3 BIG EAST), winners of five straight entering the doubleheader, was also blanked in the closing game by a 5-0 count.
Notre Dame (35-8, 11-1) entered the day with the BIG EAST’s best batting average (.375) and the Bulls boasted the league’s lowest ERA (0.67). USF displayed its own freshman standout pitcher in Sara Nevins, the league leader with a 7-0 BIG EAST record and a conference ERA of 0.31. In the end, it was Notre Dame’s pitching that stole the show in the opener and again in game two.
Sharing the spotlight with Winter was Brittany O’Donnell, who took a no-hitter into the sixth in the back end of the twinbill. USF ended its 10.0 inning hitless drought with a single but left three runners on the pond in the inning.
O’Donnell earned her seventh win in just her fourth start behind a one-hit effort in 6.0 frames.
The sweep marked the second time this season Notre Dame posted back-to-back shutout wins.
Notre Dame returns home for a three-game league series with St. John’s (April 30-May 1).
A battle between the league’s two best freshman pitchers lived up to its billing.
Nevins fanned the side in the first, retired three in the second and six straight in the next two innings.
Then up stepped Sadie Pitzenberger in the fifth, and she put down a one-out bunt to halt Nevins’ perfect game.
Monica Torres replaced Pitzenberger at first and scored on Erin Marrone’s two-out double that dropped between a pair of USF outfielders in left-center.
Nevins (14-8) allowed her first earned run in 46.0 innings, a streak that began on April 3, and suffered her first BIG EAST loss after giving up one earned run on three hits.
That would be all the offense the Irish needed.
Winter (19-3) beaned the first USF batter in the head and issued an opening-inning walk before retiring 19 straight.
Alexia Clay used her speed and power to leg-out a double to left-center in the sixth. USF showed its respect for Heather Johnson with an intentional walk and got out of the jam by leaving a pair of Irish runners on base.
It was the first time USF had been no-hit since Florida’s Stephanie Brombacher did so on March 27, 2010.
Notre Dame didn’t have to wait long for its first hit of the second game, with Clay knocking a first-inning single to right. Johnson was intentionally walked for the second time on the day and USF eventually got out of the inning when Dani Miller grounded into a double play.
The Irish committed a pair of errors in the bottom of the first while leaving the Bulls scoreless.
Brianna Jorgensborg delivered a two-out double in the second to plate a run. Kelsey Thornton scooted across the plate on the play after pinch-running for Pitzenberger. Pitzenberger beat out an infield grounder earlier in the inning.
O’Donnell (7-0) put Stephanie Medina on the pond with a leadoff walk in the bottom half of the second. Again, Notre Dame got out of the jam.
Alexa Maldonado bumped a bunt single in the top of the third, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Clay and was joined on base when Johnson was intentionally walked for a third time. Miller reached on a fielder’s choice which retired Maldonado at third. Pitzenberger lined a single to shortstop for another hit and Torres scored on the play when shortstop Janine Richardson booted the ball.
Ahead 2-0, Marrone singled to shallow left to start the fourth. In a strange turn of events, Jorgensborg laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Marrone and Nevins’ throw to first made its way down the rightfield line. Marrone scored and Jorgensborg rounded all the bases to put the Irish on top, 4-0.
Capri Catalano then replaced Nevin and surrendered an infield single to Amy Buntin. Maldonado’s hit to left went for a ground-rule double to put two runners in scoring position for Clay. Clay was relieved and Johnson was intentionally walked yet again as the bases were loaded for Miller. Miller made the Bulls pay with an RBI single to right.
Maldonado drove a single to left to start the sixth and was caught stealing second before Johnson drew another walk. Johnson became the eighth Irish runner stranded.
O’Donnell walked the first batter of the sixth and plunked the second. Richardson singled up the middle to break up the no-hitter and load the bases. Once again, the defense held strong to leave the Bulls without a run.
Valdivia tossed the final scoreless inning for Notre Dame to post the program’s seventh straight win over USF in the overall series.
Pitzenberger led Notre Dame with a 4-for-4 showing at the plate with Maldonado adding three hits.
Through 11 league games, the Irish have posted double-digit hit totals seven times after pounding USF for 12 in game two.
Five players accounted for Notre Dame’s five runs.