Sophomore Cole Johnson.

Baseball Rallies Past Illinois, 14-7

Feb. 21, 2009

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BRADENTON, Fla. – Junior Matt Grosso (Hebron, Conn.) belted a two-run, the first of his career, and senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) added a three-run blast in an eight-run seventh inning as Notre Dame rallied past Illinois, 14-7, Saturday night in college baseball action from McKechnie Field. The Irish snapped their nine-game losing streak dating back to last season and even their record at 1-1 on the year.

With Notre Dame trailing 7-5, Barnes opened the seventh with a walk. After Grosso fell behind in the count 0-2, the junior battled back to push the count full and fouled off three straight pitches before hammering Billy Barrett’s offering over the right field fence to square the game, 7-7.

The next five Irish batters would reach base, including a go-ahead, two-run single from sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) that made the score, 9-7. Junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) added a sacrifice fly to make it 10-7 before Barnes capped the explosion with a three-run bomb deep into the left field night.

Sophomore Cole Johnson (Hudson, Ohio) picked up the victory in relief. The right-handed hurler (1-0) allowed one earned run on a pair of hits in 3.0 innings.

Barrett (0-1) was charged with the loss for Illinois. The right-handed reliever was knocked around for four runs, three earned, on four hits in 2.0 innings of work.

Sophomore Golden Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and sophomore Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) each had three hits. Tate added three runs scored, while Doyle drove in a pair and scored a pair. Barnes went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and a career-high five RBI. McConnell went 2-for-3 with a run scored and career-best three RBI.

Junior Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.) did not render in the decision. He allowed three earned runs on four hits in 5.0 innings of work. Maust walked three, all of which came around to score in the Illinois three-run fifth inning, and struck out one.

Notre Dame got off to a less-than-desirable start. After Maust retired the first Illinois batter of the night, Casey McMurray reached on a fielding error from Doyle. Brandon Wikoff followed with a Texas League single that bounced over the head of Irish first baseman Evan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.). With runners on the corners and one out, Dominic Altobelli ripped a single to right field that junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) overran, allowing the ball roll all the way to the wall. McMurray scored easily from third base and Wikoff raced home from first base to give the Illini a 2-0 lead. Aaron Johnson followed with an RBI ground out to plate Altobelli pushing the Illinois lead to 3-0.

All three runs were unearned. The Illini benefitted from five unearned runs in their 8-3 season-opening victory Friday night over Iowa.

The Irish quickly answered with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the first inning. Tate legged out a routine ground ball to the first baseman, beating the pitching to the bag for an infield single. After Mills grounded out and Tate moved to second base, Pollock ripped an infield single and promptly stole second to put a pair in scoring position for Barnes. The senior followed with a two-run single to bring the Irish within a run, 3-2. Barnes advanced into scoring position on the throw home. Grosso then stepped to the plate and nearly homered in his first career at-bat, driving the Illinois centerfield to the base of the right field wall. Barnes was able to move to third base and scored on Doyle’s clutch two out, two strike RBI single to tie the score, 3-3.

Maust settled down and retired 11 of the next 12 Illinois batters, including nine consecutive at one point before running into trouble with command in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, Maust proceeded to walk three straight Illini and Altobelli made him pay with a three-run triple to give Illinois a 6-3 advantage, but the cushion proved to be not enough.

Notre Dame returns to action tomorrow afternoon against instate rival Purdue. First-pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Fla. Sophomore RHP Evan Danieli (East Hanover, N.J.) will take the mound for the Irish.

— ND —