Softball: Irish look to continue April success over weekend
By MATT LOZAR
Associate Sports Editor
The month of April has always been nice to the Irish, but for the third straight year, it has been really nice.
Having won 12 straight games in April, Notre Dame looks to extend that streak today, hosting IUPU-Fort Wayne in a non-conference doubleheader.
The Irish have won 76 percent of their games all-time in April. In 2001, the Irish compiled a perfect 23-0 record while last year the Irish went 24-1. According to Notre Dame coach Deanna Gumpf, the reasons for the success in April aren't too surprising.
"It has been a good month in the past and so far so good this year," Gumpf said. "We have had a month and a half of games already, get to play at home and can play games consistently. In April we get some momentum."
Prior to April, the Irish started the year with one of the country's most challenging schedules. For the second straight year, the Irish played the defending national champion in the month of February. During the first five weeks of the season, the Irish played five ranked teams. The rigorous schedule allows the Irish to see where they rank against the best in the country and leads to their impressive April records.
"It helps tremendously. Everyone has their own opinion, but I think we get prepared for the rest of our year," Gumpf said. "Once we play the toughest teams in the country, we know what it takes to beat them."
The formula during the current 12-game winning streak has been simple — receiving steady output from each of the three aspects of the game.
On offense, shortstop Andria Bledsoe is the hottest of the Irish hitters with a .395 average, two home runs, 14 RBIs and three stolen bases over the past 12 games. Five other Notre Dame hitters join Bledsoe with an average of .300 or above during the winning streak.
With the bats producing more than enough runs, the Irish pitching staff hasn't needed all of them. The staff has allowed 11 earned runs over the past 12 games, led by Big East co-Pitcher of the Week Heather Booth's 6-0 record and 0.37 ERA in her last six appearances.
"I think that is why we are winning ballgames, because we are getting consistent production," Gumpf said. "Defensively, Alexis Madrid and Andrea Loman have been phenomenal. Offensively, we are becoming a consistent one through nine hitting team. Heather Booth as really come into her own in seeing the college game."
The Mastodons are 14-15 on the season, having won four in a row and five of their last seven. Catcher Crystal Fisher leads the Mastodon offense with a .393 batting average, four home runs and 18 RBI. IUPU-Fort Wayne's pitching staff is a weak spot with a team ERA of 4.60, compared to Notre Dame's 2.56.
Today's doubleheader is set to begin at 4 p.m. at Ivy Field.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, April 17, 2003