Louisville Shocks Notre Dame in BIG EAST Softball Championship Semifinal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - No. 5 seed Louisville (36-17, 12-7 BIG EAST) upset regular season champions and No. 1 seed Notre Dame (45-9, 19-1 BIG EAST) 6-0 Friday in the second semifinal contest of the 2011 BIG EAST Softball Championship at Ulmer Stadium on the University of Louisville campus.
Louisville advances to Saturday's BIG EAST Championship at 5 p.m., squaring off with No. 3 seed Syracuse for the second-straight year. Last year, the Cardinals lost to SU 2-1 in the tournament final, giving SU its first league title. This is the fourth time in program history UofL has reached the tournament final and second for the Orange. The teams closed out their regular season with a three-game set at Louisville May 7-8 as Syracuse swept the series 3-0, 9-5 and 5-2.
With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Louisville rattled off three-straight singles en route to score freshman Maggie Ruckenbrod thanks to the bat of freshman Taner Fowler. The Cardinal bats stayed hot in the third inning as senior Chelsea Bemis blasted a three-run home run over the centerfield fence, scoring sophomore Jennifer Esteban and freshman Katie Keller. Sophomore Alicja Wolny followed Bemis' homer by doubling to left field. A sacrifice bunt from senior Colby Wherry moved Wolny to third. She then scored off of a single from Ruckenbrod. Ruckenbrod went 2-for-3 on the day with an RBI and one run scored.
In the circle, junior Tori Collins improved to 16-9 for the Cardinals as she fanned seven Irish batters and walked four, while allowing just four hits for a complete game effort. Notre Dame sophomore Brittany O'Donnell picked up her first loss of the season after winning 10-straight games. She tossed two innings, giving up five hits, allowing four earned runs, striking out one batter and walking one.
Senior Jody Valdivia and freshman Laura Winter split the relief duties for the Irish today. Valdivia gave up three hits and two earned runs, while striking out two throughout the third and fourth innings. Winter allowed one hit, walking one Cardinal and striking out another over the final two innings of work.
The Cardinals bookended the No. 18/24 Irish's 14-game winning streak as ND's last loss and lone conference loss came at the hands of Louisville April 17 in a 9-6 decision. This is the first BIG EAST Championship shutout loss for Notre Dame since 2001. The Irish's last four tournament losses have come against UofL.
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. 5 Louisville 2, No. 4 USF 0
Friday, May 13
Live on the BIG EAST's Championship Central
Semifinal 1 - No. 3 Syracuse 2, No. 2 DePaul 0
Semifinal 2 - No. 5 Louisville 6, No. 1 Notre Dame 0
Saturday, May 14
Live on ESPN2
Final - No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 5 Louisville, 5 p.m.