May 23, 2007
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – David Phelps went down with guns a-blazing, coming up one shy of his fourth double-digit strikeout game while limiting Villanova to a pair of earned runs – but the Wildcats emerged with Wednesday afternoon’s 3-2 win, ending Notre Dame’s season in second-day action at the 2007 BIG EAST Championship. The loss halts the nation’s second-longest string of consecutive conference tournament titles, as the Irish had won each of the five previous BIG EAST tournaments.
Villanova (29-24) opened the game at KeySpan Park with a pair of runs and later received a key leadoff home run from veteran catcher Jim Gillin. Notre Dame (28-28) came right back to score twice in the bottom of the 4th but the Irish again failed to capitalize on other chances, producing the ninth game this season in which unearned runs led to Notre Dame’s margin of defeat.
The Irish had three leadoff batters reach base and totaled 12 baserunners, with two erased on double-play balls and six others left stranded on base. Notre Dame had some key scoring opportunities but ultimately finished the game 1-for-12 with runners on base, 1-for-8 with men in scoring position and 2-for-12 with 2-outs.
Phelps (8-5) – who pitched well enough all season to win at least 14 of his 16 starts this season – went the distance for his fifth complete game of 2007. The sophomore righthander limited the Wildcats to five hits and three walks while totaling nine strikeouts in a 123-pitch outing that included 78 pitches in the strike zone. He became the fifth different Notre Dame pitcher ever to reach 100 strikeouts in a season (102).
Junior righthander Jordon Ellis (6-1) picked up the win (7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 Ks) picked up the win while RHP Josh Eidell recorded his fourth save (6 BF, K, DP).
Junior shortstop Brett Lilley (1-for-2, BB, HBP) reached base three times but was left stranded in each of those innings. Lilley and freshman third baseman A.J. Pollock (0-for-2, BB) nearly tied for the team batting title, with Pollock finishing first by the narrowest of margins at .372 (73-for-196; Lilley also had 73 hits but 197 ABs, for a .371 avg.). Pollock fittingly joins Lilley (.355, in ’05) as one of four Notre Dame freshmen ever to lead the Irish in batting , with the others including Pete Schmidt’s .367 in 1971 and the .429 posted by Eric Danapilis in 1990). Lilley nearly became a rare two-time Notre Dame batting champ and could then have tried for a third Irish batting crown in 2008 (Steve Stanley is the program’s only three-time batting champion).
Ryan Arcadia opened the game with a double that narrowly eluded the forward lunge of rightfielder Brayden Ashdown. Phelps then worked ahead to the next batter but Matt McFolling sent a 1-2 pitch into left field for an RBI double. Derek Shunk followed with a low, soft linedrive but the surehanded Lilley uncharacteristically dropped the ball as he eyed a possible double play. James Dolbier later coaxed a one-out, full-count walk and Lilley came through with a strong play, ranging deep in the hole and quickly throwing to Pollock for the tag-out at third (McFolling scored, unearned, for the 2-0 lead. It was just the seventh time all season that the Irish had allowed multiple runs in the opening inning.
Gillin attacked the first pitch he saw in the 4th and cleared the leftfield fence for his fifth home run of the season. Notre Dame responded in the bottom of the frame, sparked by senior centerfielder Danny Dressman’s one-out bunt single. Junior leftfielder Ross Brezovsky added a five-pitch walk, leaving runners at first and second with one out. Sophomore second baseman Jeremy Barnes then delivered one of his biggest hits of the season, driving a 2-1 pitch into the right-center gap for a two-run double that cut the deficit to one.
NOTES – Lilley and Dressman (2-for-3, BB) combined to reach base six times but the rest of the team was just 2-for-24 with two walks … Phelps entered the week ranked 14th in ERA, with that number rising slightly from 1.87 to 1.88 (11th in ND history and 8th-best in the aluminum-bat error, dating back to the early 1980s) … Phelps led the team in ERA, wins, Ks, innings (110.1), starts (15), Ks looking (42) and groundout (119), also ranking 3rd in low opp. batting avg. (.236) … his 9-inning averages included a team-best 7.1 innings per start, 8.3 Ks (2nd on the team) and 2.5 walks (3rd-lowest on the staff), plus 7.8 hits per 9 IP … Phelps allowed 0-2 earned runs in 13 of his 16 starts … dating back to 1996, Phelps is one of just three ND pitchers to post four or more 9-inning complete games in a season (4; Aaron Heilman had 5 and Danny Tamayo 4, in 2001) … the 2006 ND staff totaled just three 9-inning CGs … unearned runs led to ND losses in three games started by Phelps this season (vs. Texas State, Pitt and Villanova) … Phelps allowed just .212 batting with runners on base (2nd-best on the staff) and was 3rd on the staff in opp. batting by LH hitters (.243), RH hitters (.232) and in opp. leadoff on-base pct. (.336; 3 per 9 IP) … the Irish finished with a 3.97 staff ERA and surged to a .962 season fielding pct. (with several of the lateseason errors made by pitches) … Phelps had 15 more innings pitched than hits allowed (96) and finished with the staff’s 2nd-best K-to-walk ratio (3.4; 102/30) … 12 of the runs charged to Phelps this season were unearned and the ND offense averaged just 5.4 runs in his 16 starts … the only ND pitchers to total more Ks in a season than Phelps are Heilman (118 in ’99 and ’00; 111 in ’01), Jeff Manship (111 in ’06) and Tamayo (106 in ’01) … Lilley finished with the 7th-best season on-base pct. in ND history (.512; 2nd-best since the early 1990s) … his .485 career on-base pct. is 2nd in the ND record book (behind the .494 posted by Danapilis) … Lilley also owns a .349 career batting avg. and reached base in each of the final 20 games this season and all but three games in the ’07 season (53 of 56 OB) … Lilley has started all 176 games of his career, just three behind Brant Ust (’97-’99) for 3rd-longest in the ND record book … Stanley started all 256 games of his career (’99-’02) while Pat Pesavento made 204 straight starts from ’99-’02 … Lilley finished with 27 HBPs this season and now has 78 in his career (still 4th in ND history, three back of 3rd, six shy of Cody Rizzo’s ND record and 14 back of tying the NCAA mark) … Phelps and Lilley could collect several national postseason honors in upcoming weeks (for both All-America and Academic All-America distinction) while Pollock is a top candidate for Freshman All-America honors … Notre Dame – which had to replace nine of its top-12 players from the 2006 team (including seven former all-BIG EAST performers) – now turns its focus to the 2008 season, which will include the addition of a recruiting class that is projected to be among the top-10 in the nation.
Villanova 2-0-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 – 3 5 1
Notre Dame 0-0-0 2-0-0 0-0-0 – 2 5 2