May 10, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. – A five-run bottom of the fourth inning broke the game wide open for the University of Notre Dame softball team, and the Irish made the most of the surge by closing out DePaul 9-1 in six innings Friday on a sunny afternoon at the USF Softball Stadium.
The No. 1 Irish (43-12) advanced to the BIG EAST Championship game for the 11th time in the program’s 18th season in the conference. Notre Dame will play for the league title for the second time in as many seasons.
After both teams battled through a scoreless first inning, Staci Bonezek connected for a solo home run deep to left field off Notre Dame starter Laura Winter to give DePaul a 1-0 lead. Winter (29-9), the BIG EAST Player of the Year, struck out Kali Gardner swinging to end the Blue Demon half.
The Irish responded in the bottom of the second. Katey Haus opened the proceedings with an infield single up the middle before Lauren Stuhr crushed a 1-1 double off Kirsten Verdun (23-13) to the gap in left center, plating Haus to square the game at 1-1.
Winter hung a DePaul (32-21) zero on the scoreboard over the next two innings, striking out Hannah Penna swinging and flying Paige Peterson out to left field in the top of the fourth.
Winter tossed a second straight gem in the circle, allowing four hits over six innings with one walk, striking out three DePaul hitters to tie a career-high with her 29th win of the season.
Notre Dame broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring five runs on only one base hit off Verdun. Winter worked a four-pitch walk to open the half, and pinch runner Carly Piccinich moved to third base on a laser double down the left field line by Haus. Piccinich came in to score after DePaul third baseman Brittany Boesel mishandled a Cassidy Whidden grounder, allowing Notre Dame to take a 2-1 advantage.
Chloe Saganowich walked two batters later to load the bases for Kelsey Thornton. Another Blue Demon error on a Thornton slap to the left side allowed Haus and Whidden to come home (4-1). A second straight error by DePaul’s Allie Braden on a hard grounder by Emilee Koerner left all runners safe and scored Saganowich to make it 5-1 in favor of the Irish.
Jenna Simon reached on a full-count walk with one away to reload the bases for Notre Dame. A fielder’s choice off the bat of Amy Buntin scored Thornton from third base to cap the Irish scoring in the frame at 6-1.
Notre Dame ended the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Haus roped an RBI single to right field to score Buntin and make it a 7-1 score. Whidden turned on the first pitch she saw from Morgan Maize and deposited it in the gap in right center, scoring Winter and Haus to close the contest at 9-1.
Haus led all players with a 3-for-4 day at the plate and three runs scored, while Whidden chipped in three RBI.
Notre Dame will face No. 3 USF Saturday at 4 p.m. on ESPN2 for the BIG EAST Conference Championship.