Notre Dame Slips Past Providence in BIG EAST Softball Championship Quarterfinal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the third quarterfinal game of the 2011 BIG EAST Softball Championship today, No. 1 seed Notre Dame (45-8, 19-1 BIG EAST) slipped past No. 8 seed Providence (23-30, 7-13 BIG EAST) 6-4 with a four-run rally in the sixth inning at Ulmer Stadium on the University of Louisville campus, extending the Irish winning-streak to 14 games.
Top-seeded Notre Dame got on the board early, putting up two runs in the first inning via junior Alexa Maldonado and sophomore Kelsey Thornton. Thornton's run came off of a double down the left field line by senior Sadie Pitzenberger.
Senior Justine Stratton led the Friars blasting a pair of two-run homers, collecting her 10th home run of the season. She is fifth in school history with 21 career round trippers. The shortstop's first 2-run blast came in fourth inning, when she plated junior Michelle Huber with a shot off the scoreboard in left field. In the top of the sixth inning, Stratton sent Huber home again, homering over the left field fence and giving PC a 4-2 lead.  
The No. 18/24-ranked Irish answered back and rallied in the bottom of the sixth to put up four runs with a string of five-straight singles, giving the Irish a 6-4 advantage. Pitzenberger picked up her second RBI of the day during the rally. She went 2-for-3 and scored once. The 2011 BIG EAST Player of the Year Heather Johnson also went 2-for-3 and recorded one run.
In the circle, ND freshman Laura Winter secured her 24th win of the season, holding a 24-3 mark, while sophomore Brittany O'Donnell earned her first save of the season. The loss went to PC sophomore Corinne Clauss. Winter tossed 6.0 innings, allowing four hits and four earned runs, while fanning seven Friar batters. O'Donnell pitched 1.0 inning in relief, striking out two. For Providence, Clauss gave up six hits and five earned runs, striking out one over 6.0 innings of work.
Notre Dame advances to play in the semifinals tomorrow at 5 p.m. and will face the winner of tonight's quarterfinal match-up between No. 4 seed USF and No. 5 seed Louisville. The Irish's last loss and lone conference loss came at the hands of Louisville May 17 in a 9-6 decision. In their last meeting against the Bulls, the Irish held USF scoreless, sweeping a doubleheader 1-0 and 5-0 April 27.
The 2011 Softball Championship is an eight-team, single-elimination tournament. This year's championship is being held at Ulmer Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville. The Championship runs from May 12-14. The first round and semifinals will be streamed live on the BIG EAST's Championship Central site, while the championship game on May 14 at 5 p.m. will be televised live on ESPN2.
2011 BIG EAST Championship Schedule
Thursday, May 12
Live on the BIG EAST's Championship Central
Game 1 - No. 3 Syracuse 2, No. 6 Pittsburgh 1
Game 2 - No. 2 DePaul 5, No. 7 Rutgers 2
Game 3 - No. 1 Notre Dame 6, No. 8 Providence 4
Game 4 - No. 4 USF (33-20) vs. No. 5 Louisville (34-17), 6:30 p.m.
Friday, May 13
Live on the BIG EAST's Championship Central
Semifinal 1 - No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 2 DePaul, 2:30 p.m.
Semifinal 2 - No. 1 Notre Dame vs. Winner Game 4, 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 14
Live on ESPN2
Final - Winner Semifinal 1 vs. Winner Semifinal 2, 5 p.m.