May 3, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With two on, two out and the game tied, 4-4, in the ninth inning, junior Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.) lined a single through the right side of the infield and Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) slid under the tag of catcher Joe Pavone to give the Irish a 5-4 win in the series finale against Connecticut on Sunday afternoon. The win came after the Huskies plated two runs to tie the game in the top of the inning. Notre Dame improves to 27-19 and 11-10 in the BIG EAST, while Connecticut drops to 27-21 and 10-11.
UConn reliever Dusty Odenbach benefited from some great defense to begin the ninth, as second baseman Pierre LePage made a nice play on a slow chopper by junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) and third baseman Dale Brannon denied sophomore Golden Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.) in his bid for a fifth hit by snagging a sharp line drive. But Barnes followed with a single through the left side and sophomore David Casey (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) was hit by a pitch to set the stage for Ashdown, who had entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement.
Freshman reliever Joe Spano (Verona, N.J.) picked up his first collegiate win (1-1) after getting the last two outs in the top of the ninth. Odenbach (1-3) took the loss, giving up two hits and a run (just the second earned run allowed by the Connecticut bullpen in the series).
Junior Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.) worked 8.0 innings in the start, giving up two earned runs on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Maust has now thrown at least 7.1 innings in four of his last five starts and is 4-0 with a 3.12 ERA over his last five outings. He has now given up three or fewer earned runs in eight of his 11 starts this season.
Senior Matt McDonald started for the Huskies and went 5.0+ innings, giving up three runs on nine hits. McDonald walked one and struck out six.
Tate paced the Irish with a 4-for-5 day at the plate (a career-high in hits), scoring twice and driving in a run for the fifth time in his last six games. In the series, Tate batted.571 (8-for-14) with five runs scored. Casey went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, and Barnes had hits in his last two at bats after striking out in his first three plate appearances (just the third time in his career Barnes has struck out three times). Sophomore Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) had a pair of hits, an RBI and a stolen base.
Pavone led the Huskies by going 3-for-4 with two RBI, and LePage, Peter Fatse, and George Springer each had two hits. Springer went 6-for-13 in the series with three two-hit games.
In the top of the first, Maust struck out LePage looking on a 3-2 pitch. Nick Ahmed followed with a sharp single up the middle, but Maust picked him off of first base. The pickoff was the fourth of the season for Maust and the fifth of his career. Maust followed by walking Mike Nemeth, but got Springer to ground to short to end the inning.
Fatse led off the Connecticut second with a double in the gap in right center. Matt Burnett followed with a ground ball up the middle that looked like it would be a single, but second baseman Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) made a sensational throw while running away from first to nab Burnett. Fatse moved to third on the play, however, and scored on a line drive single to left by catcher Pavone, making the score 1-0 in favor of the Huskies.
The Irish caught a break in the third when with two outs and LePage on second, Springer hit a ball down the third base line that got by Doyle but hit the third-base umpire, preventing LePage from scoring. Maust then induced Fatse to line to Barnes at shortstop to keep the Huskies off the board.
The Irish had four hits in the first three innings but failed to score, thanks to four strikeouts with runners on base.
Notre Dame broke through in the fourth for a run to tie the game, 1-1. Junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) singled with one out and moved to second on a wild pitch by McDonald. Doyle followed with a double that landed just inside the line in right field to plate Mills. The RBI was the10th in the past seven games for Doyle.
The Irish struck again in the fifth inning to take the lead. Pollock laced a one-out double into the left-center field gap, his team-leading 14th double of the season, and Tate followed with a ground ball through the hole in the left side, his third hit of the game. Left fielder Fatse’s one-hop throw beat Pollock to the plate, but the Irish center fielder was able to jar the ball loose and score the go-ahead run. Tate advanced to second when the ball came loose and scored one out later when Casey hit a long double to left-center, giving Notre Dame a 3-1 lead.
The Huskies added a run in the sixth to make it a one-run game. Maust walked Springer on five pitches to begin the inning, and Fatse followed with a single to right. Burnett followed with a ground ball to second that took a bad hop and went off the glove of Sherry, but the ball caromed to Barnes, who stepped on second for the force and nearly turned a miraculous double play. Springer advanced to third and scored when Pavone lined an infield single off the leg of Maust, making the score 3-2. Maust escaped further damage by inducing Brannon to fly out and pinch-hitter Elliot Glynn to ground back to the mound.
Notre Dame missed a golden opportunity to add to its lead in the sixth. Doyle reached on an error to begin the frame, and McDonald walked senior Evan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.), forcing a pitching change. Sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) stepped in against new pitcher Dan Mahoney and put a bunt down the third base line. Mahoney elected to throw to third, but his throw was late, and the bases were loaded with nobody out. But the Irish came up empty, as Sherry grounded into a 4-2-3 double play with the infield in and Pollock bounced out to Ahmed at shortstop. It marked the second time in as many games and the third time in nine games that the Irish have loaded the bases with nobody out and failed to score.
The Irish did add to their lead in the seventh inning against Mahoney. Tate led off the inning with his fourth hit off the game, an infield single that glanced off Mahoney. Barnes followed with a hit-and-run single through the right side, with Tate racing to third. Casey knocked in his second run of the game with a sacrifice fly to left, giving the Irish a 4-2 lead. Dennis Accomando relieved Mahoney and stranded Barnes by getting Mills and Doyle to ground out.
Maust worked around two singles in his eighth inning of work by inducing three consecutive 4-6 fielder’s choices, the last coming on a diving stop by Sherry with runners on first and second.
Freshman Will Hudgins (Richmond, Va.) entered the game in the ninth in a bid for his third save, but was unsuccessful. Hudgins walked Glynn on five pitches, and LePage followed with a double down the right field line to give the Huskies two on with nobody out. Ahmed drove in Glynn with a ground ball to shortstop, with LePage advancing to third. Spano relieved Hudgins and was greeted rudely by Nemeth, who lined Spano’s first offering to deep right-center for a game-tying double. The Irish elected to intentionally walk Springer, and the move paid off, as Spano got Fatse to ground into a 6-3 double play to Barnes to end the inning and keep the score tied at four.
After a break for final exams, the Irish return to action Friday, May 8, for a weekend series at Frank Eck Stadium against the league-leading USF Bulls. It will be the final home series of the season for Notre Dame.
— ND —