TAMPA, Fla. - The top two seeds at the BIG EAST Softball Championship, No. 1 Notre Dame (43-12) and No. 2 USF (42-14), will meet in the championship game live on ESPN2 Saturday, May 11 at 4 p.m. ET at the USF Softball Stadium. Today's final marks the first-ever meeting between the Irish and No. 24 Bulls at the BIG EAST Tournament and features BIG EAST Player of the Year Laura Winter of Notre Dame and BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year Sara Nevins of USF.
In addition to the Player and Pitcher of the Years, Saturday's final includes a total of 11 All-BIG EAST players and the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year Notre Dame. The Irish placed seven players on the all-conference team including two first team selections Winter and outfielder Emilee Koerner. USF earned two unanimous first team honorees Nevins and shortstop Kourtney Salvarola and two additional All-BIG EAST selections.
Notre Dame returns to the BIG EAST Championship final for the second consecutive season and 11th time since joining the league in 1996. Last year, they entered the championship game as the No. 2 seed and dropped a 4-3 contest in eight innings to top-seeded Louisville. The team is 34-18 in championship play and ranks second all-time in BIG EAST history with six tournament titles, second to Connecticut's seven. They last won in 2009 over DePaul 1-0.
The Irish defeated No. 8 Seton Hall 6-0 in the quarterfinal Thursday and followed up with a 9-1 win against No. 4 DePaul Friday. BIG EAST Player of the Year Winter has continued her dominance in the circle, throwing two complete games for the Irish and allowing just one run (earned) on seven hits in 13 innings. She also struck out 11 batters and walked one.
In Friday's semifinal, Notre Dame broke up a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fourth inning with a five-run outburst. Two innings later, All-BIG EAST Third Team selection Cassidy Whidden drove in the game-winning runs with a two-RBI double.
Offensively, shortstop Chloe Saganowich and third baseman Katey Haus led the team with three hits and three runs each. Saganowich has a team-high .600 (3-for-5) batting average and Whidden leads all Irish with three RBI.
USF, led by Nevins, has not allowed a run this tournament and defeated No. 7 Providence and No. 3 Louisville 3-0 each. The junior held the Cards scoreless for only the third time all season and first since March 1. She has given up six total hits in 14 innings during the BIG EAST Championship.
The Bulls, picked to finish first in the preseason coaches' poll, make their second title game appearance in their eighth season as a BIG EAST member. In 2008 they entered as the No. 1 seed but dropped a 4-1 decision to No. 2 seed DePaul. USF is 6-6 all-time in BIG EAST Championship play entering Saturday's contest.
The Bulls have combined for seven hits in two games. Catcher Lee Ann Spivey is the only player with double-digit hits and is 2-for-6 with two RBI. Nevin's heads a four-player pitching rotation that boasts a 1.27 ERA, which ranks second in the nation.
Notre Dame and USF have not met this season
BIG EAST Championship
USF Softball Stadium - Tampa, Fla.
Quarterfinals, Thursday, May 9
Game 1: No. 4 DePaul, 1 vs. No. 5 Georgetown, 0
Game 2: No. 1 Notre Dame, 6 vs. No. 8 Seton Hall, 0
Game 3: No. 3 Louisville, 12 vs. No. 6 Syracuse, 3
Game 4: No. 2 USF, 3 vs. No. 7 Providence, 0
Semifinals, Friday, May 10
Game 5: No. 1 Notre Dame, 9 vs. No. 4 DePaul, 1
Game 6: No. 2 USF, 3 vs. No. 3 Louisville, 0
Championship, Saturday, May 11 - Live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. ET
Game 7: No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 USF