April 15, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - A pair of hot teams squared off at Melissa Cook Stadium on Thursday afternoon as No. 24 Notre Dame, winners of seven straight, faced a Cleveland State squad that had been victorious in 19 of its last 21 games. But the Vikings, like nine other teams this season, failed to even make the Irish play seven frames as Notre Dame used six runs in the fifth and sixth innings to defeat Cleveland State, 8-0, in non-conference action.
Along with extending their winning streak to eight, the Irish (32-6) upped their home winning streak to 13 games and improved to 31-2 in their last 33 games, tying for the second-best 33-game stretch in the history of the program. The only better stretch was the school-record 33-game winning streak by 2001 team, which went 54-7.
Dani Miller, Kristina Wright and Brianna Jorgensborg all went yard for the Irish, who have 14 home runs in the last seven games. Notre Dame is on pace to once again break the school's single-season home run record after the 2009 team broke the old mark, notching 66 circuit clouts.
Starting back-to-back games for the first time in her career, freshman Brittany O'Donnell retired 10 of the first 11 batters she faced before walking a pair in the fourth and yielding to Valdivia, who retired all nine batters she saw to earn the victory (25-3). The Vikings (28-10) managed just one hit off of the pair, a Tess Sito bloop single to right-center in the first inning.
Vikings pitcher Amanda Macenko (22-10) was roughed up for seven earned runs in 5.0 innings and has now yielded 13 runs in her last two outings.
Miller blasted a long solo home run to left-center in the second to put Notre Dame up, 1-0, the fourth consecutive run scored by Notre Dame via solo home run after the Irish used three long balls to defeat Georgetown, 3-2, in the second game of Wednesday's twinbill.
O'Donnell struggled with command in her outing against Georgetown, walking four and throwing 41 pitches out of the strike zone, but the hurler had no such problems until the fourth inning of Thursday's game. She sent down eight straight Viking batters - the last four on lineouts in the infield - before Sito walked to begin the inning. That walk led to another free pass, and Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf decided to turn to Valdivia in relief for the second straight game. Lia Gordon laid down a bunt that would have advanced the runners, but she was called out for interfering with Wright's attempt to throw to first and both runners had to return to their bases. Valdivia then induced a strikeout and a pop out to end the threat and preserve the 1-0 Irish lead.
The Irish parlayed the momentum from the escaped jam into a run to extend the lead to 2-0, with Miller again doing the damage. An inning-opening error on Katie Fleury's ground ball to short proved costly, as she advanced to second on a fielder's choice and scored with two outs on Miller's liner up the middle. Fleury had to dance a bit to avoid Miller's shot, but still scored easily, as the Cleveland State outfielders were playing with their backs nearly against the fence.
The lead went to five in the next frame as a Jorgensborg leadoff infield single paved the way for three Irish runs. Alexa Maldonado reached on a fielder's choice after Jorgensborg's hit, stole second and scored on Sadie Pitzenberger's single back through the box. Pitzenberger then took off for second on a 1-2 pitch to Fleury, who smacked a ground ball for a hit in the exact spot vacated by the shortstop Sito, who was covering second base. Pitzenberger motored to third and scored when center fielder Jessica Burt's throw sailed into the Irish dugout, making it 4-0 in favor of Notre Dame. An opposite-field RBI single by Heather Johnson capped off the three-run inning.
Fleury's run in the fifth gave her 21 in the last 18 games and 37 for the season; she is on pace to break the single-season school mark in that category (52, by Jarrah Myers in 2002 and Katie Marten in 1996). The shortstop also went strikeout-free once again - she has been fanned just once and walked 15 times in the last 18 games, spanning 63 plate appearances.
Wright blasted a two-run dinger in the sixth - landing in nearly the exact same spot as Miller's - to make the score 7-0 before Jorgensborg ended the contest with her 10th career home run. After a 2-for-3 day, Jorgensborg is now batting .440 (11-for-25) over her last 12 games, scoring 10 runs and driving in 11.
Jackie Bowe cracked the starting lineup for the second time, finishing 2-for-3 with a run scored. She now has five hits in 11 career at bats.
Kelsey Thorton and Maldonado each swiped bases in the game, running Notre Dame's streak of consecutive stolen bases to 20. Thornton herself is 8-for-8 in her last eight steal attempts.
Notre Dame returns to the field on Saturday (April 17) for a BIG EAST Conference doubleheader against Louisville at Ulmer Stadium, with the first pitch of game one scheduled for 12 p.m. (ET). The squads will wrap up the three-game set with a single contest on Sunday at 11 a.m.