April 15, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Kyle Weiland logged six solid outings to pick up the win in his second collegiate start while the Irish offense scored seven times in the 3rd inning to claim an early 11-0 cushion, as the Notre Dame baseball team closed out its BIG EAST series with Georgetown by posting an 11-2 win in sun-splashed Sunday afternoon action at Eck Stadium. Senior centerfielder Danny Dressman continued his steady season by collecting three hits and factoring into four of the Irish runs (2 RBI, 2 runs), leading the way for a Notre Dame lineup that saw all nine starters collect hits while eight scored runs.
(Note: pregame and postgame quotes from the series – including a visit with former ND player Matt Bok, now an assistant at Georgetown – will be linked later to this recap and also will be posted as a separate release.)
Notre Dame (17-17, 4-7 BIG EAST) has seven games left on the current homestand, including next weekend’s series with West Virginia. The Irish still have plenty of time to climb back up the BIG EAST standings, with two teams – Seton Hall and Villanova (5-7, tied for 8th) – currently owning a narrow lead on ND while two others (WVU and Cincinnati, both 5-6 and tied for 6th) likewise hold a slim margin on the Irish in the standings. A total of five different BIG EAST games this season – the UConn-Seton Hall series, one of the ND-Pittsburgh games and today’s WVU-Cincinnati finale – already have been lost due to weather and (per league policy) will not be made up. As in past seasons, the final standings will be determined by winning percentage, meaning that, for example, a team that finishes 17-8 (.680) actually would finish ahead of an 18-9 team (.667).
The winner of the upcoming ND-WVU series ultimately could be used to break a final tie in the standings between those teams, since the Irish and Mountaineers both now have 11 games played. Notre Dame and Cincinnati also now have the same number of games, but the Bearcats would win a potential tie in the standings due to winning last week’s series vs. the Irish.
Weiland (3-0) worked out of a couple jams and ultimately allowed just an unearned runs in his 5.0 innings, with six strikeouts, four hits allowed, three walks and a hit batter. The sophomore righthander and converted closer located just 52% of his pitches for strikes (45 of 87) but he allowed just one leadoff baserunner and one 2-out hit while limiting the Hoyas to 2-for-8 batting with runners on base.
Freshman righthander Eric Maust – who has compiled an impressive 0.82 ERA in two midweek starts this season (2-0) while having a tougher go in his relief outings – qualified for the save due to 4.0 effective innings of relief. Maust joined Weiland in allowing just an unearned run and similarly escaped some jams, after allowing five hits and a walk while striking out four. Maust struck out four of his 18 batters faced any now owns a lofty 7.0 season K-to-walk ratio (21/3) that would rank 3rd-best in the ND record book, behind Tom Price’s 12.14 ratio in 1994 (85/7) and fellow lefthander Tom Thornton’s 8.29 in ’06 (58/7).
Notre Dame allowed just four earned runs in the series, dropping the staff ERA to 3.29. The Irish entered the week ranked 2nd in the BIG EAST and 32nd nationally (along nearly 300 D-I teams) with a 3.59 ERA, with the current 3.29 likely to crack the national top-20 when the new rankings are released early next week. Dating back to the mid-1970s, only a handful of ND pitching staffs have posted a better final ERA than the current team’s mark: 3.00 in 1990, 3.06 in ’92, 3.22 in ’01, 3.25 in ’94 and 3.27 in ’06 – meaning that the 2007 staff has a realistic shot at finishing with the program’s 3rd-best team ERA in the past 30 seasons.
Junior shortstop Brett Lilley (2-for-4, RBI, R, BB) pushed his team-best batting average to .382 while sophomore Jeremy Barnes (3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2B, SB) continued his recent surge. Barnes now is batting .265 for the season but has hit at a .333 clip (11-for-33) over the past eight games, as he looks to bounce back from a slow start to the season. Sophomore rightfielder Ryan Connolly had a productive day while making his first start in the past 10 games, with three walks and a hit in his only official at-bat, plus a stolen base and a pair of runs scored.
The Irish cashed in a pair of errors by rightfielder Kelly Muir to score in their first trip to the plate. Ross Brezovsky pulled a two-out single past the first baseman and took an extra base when Muir overran the ball. One batter later, Muir had trouble with the gusting winds and dropped Matt Weglarz’s shallow fly ball, allowing Brezovsky to score the unearned run. Notre Dame now has scored 1st-inning runs in 16 games this season and is averaging nearly one 1st-inning run per game (31, in 34 GP).
Georgetown sophomore RHP Jimmy Saris (2-5) entered the game as one of the BIG EAST’s top strikeout pitchers, totaling 59 Ks in 51 innings – but Saris failed to pitch out of the 3rd while striking out just three of his 19 batters faced (2.1 IP, 10 R/8 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, WP). Saris also made an errant throw that allowed the Irish to score another unearned run, in the 2nd.
Dressman sent the first pitch he saw from Saris back up the middle and motored all the way home moments later, after Barnes drilled a 1-1 pitch down the rightfield line for an opposite-field double. Barnes then showed his own hustle by scoring all the way from second on a passed ball, as the catcher Matt Ianetta lost track of the ball as it kicked down the first-base side. Connolly followed with a four-pitch walk and Lilley lined on opposite-field single over the shortstop’s head before Saris made his costly error on a blown pickoff play. The runner looked to be hung up as Saris charged into the basepath, but the speedy Connolly lunged around the tag and headed to third base. Saris had time for the throw but fired the ball into the dugout, with Connolly awarded home plate for the unearned run and a 4-0 Irish lead.
Notre Dame sent 11 batters to the plate in the big bottom of the 3rd. The seven-run sequence included six hits (three of them doubles), a pair of walks, a stolen base, a wild pitch and an RBI groundout. Matt Weglarz coaxed a full-count leadoff walk and took third when Mike Dury pulled his team-best 10th double of the season down the rightfield line. Dressman then dropped a two-run single into shallow center field (he took second on the throw) and Saris uncorked a wild pitch before Barnes looped RBI single over the third baseman.
The inning continued with a stolen base by Barnes, a flyout, another four-pitch walk by Connolly and Lilley’s run-scoring single up the middle. Freshman RHP Cary Piligian was called out of the bullpen but failed to retire 2-hole hitter A.J. Pollock, who chopped a full-count pitch over the third baseman and down the leftfield line to plate another run. The hit amazingly was just the first double of the season for Pollock, who also has a pair of home runs, a triple and 38 singles this season among his 42 hits.
Brezovsky’s run-scoring groundout and an RBI double into the right-center gap by Weglarz capped the scoring in the frame, as the Irish suddenly held an 11-0 cushion. Notre Dame now is batting an eye-popping .390 as a team in the 3rd inning this season, with the 3rd (36 runs) passing the 7th (33) and the 1st (31) as the team’s highest-scoring innings.
The 11 runs represent Notre Dame’s highest early-game total (1st-3rd innings) this season, surpassing the eight quick runs scored vs. Chicago State and the seven in the recent win over Cincinnati.
NOTES – Dressman has totaled four 3-hit games this season and now shares the team lead with 15 multiple-hit games (along with Lilley and Pollock) … Dury (24), Dressman (21) and Brezovsky (21) currently rank as the team’s RBI leaders … Lilley extended his errorless streak to 13 games and 50 fielding chances (all at shortstop), the longest since his freshman season in 2005 – when he had a 21-game span without an E (time split at second and third base) and ended that season with a 14-game errorless streak (mostly at third) … Dury has five more extra-base hits (17; 6 HR, 3B, 10 2B) than singles (12) this season, for a team-best .541 slugging pct. … one-third of the runs allowed by ND this season have come unearned (52 of 160; 33%), compared to just 14% of the runs being unearned in the 2006 season … a check of the 1998-2006 seasons reveals that none of those ND teams allowed more than 22% of the opponent runs to be unearned … ND has scored 5-plus runs in an inning eight times this season (also seven 4-run innings), including a pair of 8-run innings (in the 7th vs. Duquesne and in the 4th vs. Western Michigan) and two earlier 7-run innings (in the 6th vs. Nebraska and the 7th vs. New York Tech).
Georgetown (13-23, 3-9 BIG EAST) 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-1-0 – 2 9 3
Notre Dame (17-17, 4-7 BIG EAST) 1-3-7 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 11 13 2