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Notre Dame's softball team finds itself in familiar territory
BALLWIN, Mo. -- The Notre Dame softball team didn't exactly pound one of the St. Louis area's premier pitchers.
The Bulldogs still had little trouble reaching their third straight final four.
Notre Dame rode timely hitting, plenty of bunting and the continued dominance of Lauren Reinagel to a 6-0 win over Kennedy in a Class 3 quarterfinal at the Ballwin Athletic Association on Saturday.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Reinagel, a senior pitcher, said of advancing to another final four.
Notre Dame (28-2) will face Platte County at 11:30 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph, Mo., in a state semifinal. Platte County beat the Bulldogs in last year's championship game.
"We got third place my sophomore year, second place my junior year and first place my senior year, hopefully," senior center fielder Mallory Siebert said. "It [the final four] never gets old."
Kennedy (21-3) rode the season-long dominance of Paige Miller into the quarterfinals as she had compiled an ERA of around 0.20 while averaging 13 strikeouts per game.
The Bulldogs managed just four hits and only two of their runs were earned, but they struck out just four times and reached base on four bunts during a four-run fifth inning.
"That's really our game plan any time we play," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said of the Bulldogs' numerous bunts Saturday. "We have tremendous speed at the top and we try to bunt when we can.
"When you see a pitcher like this ... she's tremendous. You can't rely on the big hit. I thought if we kept our strikeouts to seven, one an inning, that would be good. Four strikeouts is tremendous. It means we put the ball in play."
That was the goal as Notre Dame hoped to take advantage of its playoff experience.
"We thought we'd put the pressure on them, see if they could handle it," senior catcher Alecia Glaus said.
Reinagel, who doesn't have to take a backseat to Miller as far as being one of the state's top pitchers, handled the pressure well as she fired a three-hitter, with eight strikeouts and one walk.
Reinagel ran into some trouble but forced the Celts to strand two runners in both the first and fourth innings, along with the bases loaded in the sixth.
"I think it took Lauren a little while to get going in the cold weather," Graviett said. "But she settled down and was nails."
Notre Dame broke on top with two unearned runs in the bottom of the third inning.
With one out, sophomore second baseman Summer Burger was hit by a pitch. Sophomore right fielder Hali Rendleman sacrificed and reached base on an error, which pushed the runners to second and third.
After Miller got the second out, Siebert delivered perhaps the biggest hit of the day, a two-run single to left field.
"I just wanted to come through for my team," said Siebert, who also made a nice over-the-shoulder catch for the final out in the top of the first inning as Kennedy left two on base.
Reinagel said two runs was nice, but the four-spot Notre Dame put up in the fifth inning virtually nailed down the victory.
Burger started things by bunting for a hit and going to second on a throwing error. Rendleman sacrificed and reached on an error.
With one out, Siebert and senior shortstop Jane Morrill put down consecutive RBI squeeze bunts and reached base when Kennedy tried to get runners at the plate.
Glaus later delivered the final nail in Kennedy's coffin, a two-run, two-out double over the center fielder's head that completed the big inning.
"I've been kind of in a slump," Glaus said.
Now the Bulldogs will try to finally bring home the program's first state title after coming up one win short last season.
"I hope so," Reinagel said.
WP -- Lauren Reinagel. LP -- Paige Miller. 2B -- Brooke Miller (K), Alecia Glaus (N). Multiple hits -- Kennedy: B. Miller 2-3. Records -- Kennedy 21-3, Notre Dame 28-2.