March 27, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Amy Buntin sailed a three-run, walk-off homer into the looming dusk beyond the lights of Melissa Cook Stadium to give Notre Dame a 5-3 non-conference softball win Tuesday over visiting Western Michigan.
Notre Dame totaled one hit through six scoreless innings of the home-opening matchup with the Broncos (11-10), waiting until the seventh frame to tack on three more hits which produced five scores. In fact, Western Michigan plated three runs in the top half of the final frame to put the home team in a hole and even out-hit the Irish on the day, 7-4.
Lauren Stuhr put Notre Dame (12-10) on the board with a one-out solo dinger in the seventh. Then came Jenna Simon's second hit of the game, a triple to left over the head of a shallow-standing Colleen Lynch, and Alexa Maldonado drew a walk to put a pair of Irish runners on the pond for Kelsey Thornton. Thornton reached on a two-out fielder's choice to shortstop, as Christina Pigiozzi opted to throw to second in an effort to catch Maldonado for the final out of the game.
Maldonado beat the throw which bought enough time for Simon to score from third and cut the Broncos' lead to 3-2. Buntin watched the first offering from Meredith Whitney (7-6) go by for a ball and crushed the next pitch for the game-winning home run.
Whitney was effective for Western Michigan for nearly the entire game, allowing only a bloop single to Simon in the fifth before the seventh-inning letdown. Whitney went 6.2 innings and fanned seven batters with three walks.
Whitney and Tara Buchanan each had two hits for Western Michigan.
Laura Winter (7-6) entered the game ranked second nationally with 0.67 walks allowed per 7.0 innings and helped the cause by not issuing a free pass with five strikeouts for the complete-game win.
The best scoring chance for either team prior to the seventh came in the fifth when Diana Patterson hooked a potential home run ball a few inches to the unforgiving side of the leftfield pole. She would later reach base on Notre Dame's only error of the contest.
In the bottom of the sixth, Thornton started things by hustling all the way to second on a Western Michigan throwing error. Thornton seemed to have plenty of time to score the game's first run when Dani Miller roped a screamer to center, only to see Jennifer Tschetter make a diving snag to hold Thornton on base with no advancement.
Western Michigan snapped Notre Dame's 21-game home winning streak - which was then the fifth-longest in the nation - in the second home game of the 2011 season for the Irish. Notre Dame reversed the trend this time to extend its current home winning streak to seven games.
The Irish return to their home field Wednesday for a doubleheader with Toledo beginning at 4:00 p.m. (ET). Live video, audio and stats will be available at UND.com.