May 11, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. – The University of Notre Dame softball team got a tremendous effort in the circle from its ace and conference player of the year Laura Winter but were unable to outlast host South Florida, falling 1-0 in 10 innings Saturday in the final BIG EAST Conference Championship game at the USF Softball Stadium.
The Irish, the BIG EAST regular season champions, will continue their season in the Lexington Regional of the 2013 NCAA Championship. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech open play at John Cropp Stadium May 17 at 5 p.m. on ESPN3.
A Notre Dame error and a base knock by USF’s Monica Santos gave the Bulls a pair of runners at second and third base with one out in the top of the 10th inning. An RBI single by Ashli Goff allowed Lee Ann Spivey to score and gave USF a 1-0 lead.
After two quick outs and a walk drawn by Irish pinch hitter Casey Africano in the bottom of the 10th, Chloe Saganowich stepped to the plate to face USF reliever Lindsey Richardson. Richardson struck the Notre Dame shortstop out on three straight pitches to end the contest and clinch the conference title for the Bulls.
Notre Dame starter Winter (29-10) came out of the gates dealing against the USF (43-14) lineup in the top of the first inning, striking out Kourtney Salvarola, D’Anna Devine and Stephanie Medina in order to begin the contest.
After a 1-2-3 top of the second inning, the Bulls broke through against Winter in the third on a Courtney Goff bloop single to left field. After Goff stole second base, Winter induced Salvarola into a groundout to Katey Haus at third base to halt the USF momentum.
It was more of the same for the Notre Dame junior right-hander in the top of the fourth inning, as she punched out Devine looking, and Medina lined out to Saganowich at shortstop to keep the Bulls from gaining momentum.
Winter continued cruising into the top of the sixth inning, retiring the USF side once more in the half frame. Courtney Goff lined out to Haus at third base, Salvarola fouled out to Micaela Arizmendi at first base and Devine again popped up to Arizmendi at first base.
Winter was brilliant in a complete game effort, walking no batters on 127 pitches, striking out 11 hitters in 10 full innings. Winter (0.30 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 23 innings), Saganowich (.556 average, one home run, .889 slugging percentage) and Haus (one double, one RBI, three runs scored) were each named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament team.
Notre Dame (43-13) finally got to BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year Sara Nevins (25-7) in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Saganowich drilled a one-out single back up the middle for the first Irish hit of the contest. Kelsey Thornton then legged out an infield single to move pinch runner Carly Piccinich into scoring position. Nevins retired Emilee Koerner and Jenna Simon in order to keep Notre Dame from pushing a run across.
Winter kept her phenomenal performance rolling into the top of the seventh, fouling out Medina behind the plate and striking out Kenshyra Jackson and Spivey swinging to keep USF off the board.
An Irish error in the top of the eighth inning left little harm, as Winter got Courtney Goff to ground out to Haus at third base to end the half frame.
Saganowich logged her second hit of the game in the bottom of the eighth, drilling a two-out single through the box. A second infield single for Thornton kept the pressure on Nevins and USF. Nevins again got Koerner to put the ball on the ground, and a force play at second ended the frame, and scoring threat, for Notre Dame.
Lauren Stuhr made a tremendous play in left field in the top of the ninth inning, robbing Salvarola of a base hit in the gap. Saganowich did the same on a ball hit by Medina on the screws, snaring the line drive at short to again take a base knock away from USF.