March 29, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. - The rains swamped the USF Softball field early Sunday morning but the sun eventually cleared the clouds and paved way for the Notre Dame softball team to post its first ever sweep against USF. Notre Dame won the first BIG EAST Conference contest, 3-2, while posting a 6-4 comeback victory to finish the day.
Striking early and often to start the day, Dani Miller's solo home run in top of second - her third in six games - put the Irish (17-11 overall, 4-1 BIG EAST) on top, 1-0. The missile signified the ninth consecutive game in which the Irish have homered, with the tenth coming one game later. Beth Northway followed with a homer of her own in the third, a hard hit ball on a 3-2 pitch to left that was carried into the foul pole by the wind.
The Irish appeared to be out of the fourth inning unscathed after catching USF's (28-16, 7-5) Melissa Rosas in a steal attempt for the third out. But an illegal Brittney Bargar (11-6) pitch put Rosas on third and she came home on Alison Savarese's single to center. Kelly McCarver and Janine Richardson singled to load the bases, but Bargar got Liz Howell to strike out without any more runs scoring.
Erin Marrone moved Alexia Clay to second with a seventh-inning sacrifice bunt and Clay plated an insurance run on Northway's two-out double that bounced over the left fielder's head.
Sitting on a 3-1 lead in the final inning, Bargar allowed two runners on base with two outs. The potential game-winning run was represented at the plate by Cat Olknick, who singled to right to load the bases before JoJo Medina drew a walk to bring the Bulls within one (3-2). Bargar provoked Laura Fountain to line out to shortstop Katie Fleury to end the game as the Irish earned their first win at USF since 2006.
Bargar gave up nine hits but was aided by a defense that helped leave 11 Bulls on base. She struck out seven and gave up a pair of earned runs. Candace Howell (6-5) tossed 6.2 innings and gave up three earned runs on three hits before Brittany Bowles recorded the final out from the circle for the Bulls.
Northway finished 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI, while Richardson, Gina Kafalas, Savarese and McCarver each had two hits for USF.
A sloppy defensive display in the bottom of the first led to two USF runs on three hits. The Irish committed a pair of throwing errors and the Bulls stayed aggressive on the base paths, even leaving a pair of runners stranded before causing the two-score damage.
Christine Lux popped an early single for the Irish but the next hit did not come until the fourth. That inning started with Northway beating out an infield chopper, and she was joined on base when Kristen Gordon (6-4) was indecisive with Heather Johnson's bouncer back to the rubber. Linda Kohan laid down a sacrifice bunt to push both runners into scoring position. Gordon intentionally walked Lux in favor of Brianna Jorgensborg and the gamble paid off with an inning-ending strikeout.
Clay stepped in to pinch hit in the top of the six and paid mighty dividends with a three-run homer to left field. Miller reached on a Richardson error and Lux was hit by a pitch to set the tone for what would prove to be the game winner.
Britta Giddens singled just past the glove of an outstretched Fleury in the sixth but Johnson stuck with a Hillary Wolf dribbler in time to get the catcher out at first. Medina drew a two-out walk with Jody Valdivia (6-5) recording a strikeout on Ashley Bullion to tame the Bulls' rage.
Another Irish run made it 4-2 with one out in the seventh. Northway, Johnson and Kohan registered consecutive singles to push across the fourth Notre Dame run to force USF to make a pitching change. Bowles came in and gave up a double to Miller down the right field line which cleared the bases as the Irish built a 6-2 lead, and Lux singled to complete the five-hit frame.
USF cut into the lead, 6-4, with RBI-singles by Tara Toscano and Giddens.
Northway and Lux both had two hits while Toscano led all players with three knocks.
Valdivia tossed a complete-game with seven strikeouts, as Gordon gave up six hits and three earned runs in 6.1 innings.