May 23, 2009
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Notre Dame nearly pulled off its third consecutive remarkable come-from-behind victory, but Louisville All-American starting pitcher Justin Marks came out of the bullpen and tossed 4.0 innings of relief and struck out Irish junior Ryne Intlekofer with the tying and winning run in scoring position to help the Cardinals hold on for a thrilling 7-6 victory in the semifinals of the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament at Bright House Networks Field. Notre Dame, which dropped to 36-23 on the year, rallied from a 5-0 deficit to draw within a single run on two different occasions.
The Irish, as they have this entire season, would not go quietly in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) led off the inning with a single and junior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) drew a walk to bring the winning run to the plate in junior All-American A.J. Pollock.
Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) absolutely belted a 1-1 fast ball from Marks to right field, but unfortunately for the Irish directly into the teeth of a 25-30 mph wind. The drive still managed to carry all the way to the base of the wall, but fell short some 20-25 feet from ending the game.
McConnell did tag from second base to put runners on the corners with one out for sophomore Golden Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.). The leftfielder, who won yesterday’s game with an RBI single to left field against St. John’s, came through again with an RBI base knock to being the Irish within a run, 7-6.
Senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) fell behind in the count 0-2, fouled off three straight pitches and worked the count to 2-2, but grounded out to the pitcher. Both pinch runner Billy Boockford (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) and Tate moved into scoring position.
With the tying and winning run in scoring position, Marks got Intlekofer to strikeout looking to end the game.
Marks, making his first appearance this season as a reliever, improved to 10-2. The southpaw tossed 4.0 innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits. Marks struck out five and walked two.
Sophomore Cole Johnson (Hudson, Ohio) took the loss. The righty, working on just three days rest, went 2.1 innings and was charged with four earned runs on four hits. The outing was his shortest of the season.
McConnell paced the Notre Dame 14-hit attack with three base hits. He went 3-for-4 with a run scored and RBI. Tate, Barnes and sophomore Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) all chipped in with two hits apiece. Barnes drilled his 15th home run of the season and third of the tournament – a two-run shot in the bottom of the fifth.
Senior Same Elam (Mesquite, Texas) did everything the Irish could ask for out of the bullpen. The southpaw yielded two earned runs on five hits. Elam fanned two and walked three.
Louisville’s middle of the order, Andrew Clark, Chris Dominguez and Phil Wunderlich, went a combined 8-for-12 with a double, triple, two home runs and all seven of the Cardinals RBI.
Louisville jumped out to a 2-0 lead with back-to-back home runs from Dominguez and Wunderlich. The Cardinals then drew a walk, but Johnson punched out Wright and Arnold grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Cardinals caught a break to avoid any damage in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore Matt Scioscia (Westlake Village, Calif.) reached on an infield single and moved to second on Louisville starter Bob Revesz’s throwing error. After Scioscia advanced on a wild pitch, junior Bryaden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.) ripped a shot down the third base line, but Dominguez snagged the bullet and doubled-up Scioscia at third.
The Cardinals pushed their lead to 5-0 in the top of the third inning and chased Johnson, but the Irish answered in the bottom half of the inning. Doyle laced a leadoff double and McConnell followed with an RBI double. Sherry made it three consecutive hits for Notre Dame to put runners on the corners with one out for Tate. The left fielder ripped a shot back up the middle, but Louisville shortstop John Dao made an incredible diving stop to start a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
Notre Dame was incredibly unfortunate again in the bottom of the fourth. Barnes opened the inning with a single and took off on a hit-and-run, but Scioscia’s ensuing missile was directly at Louisville right fielder Ryan Wright, who snagged the liner and doubled-up Barnes at first base. The Irish, as they have all week, seemed unfazed.
Ashdown, senior Ryan Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.) and Doyle followed with three consecutive singles to cut the Cardinals deficit to 5-2. McConnell then legged out an infield single to load the bases, which ended the day for Revesz.
The Louisville southpaw was tagged for eight hits in only 3.2 innings of work, but the two double plays limited the damage to just two earned runs. He struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Louisville reliever Derek Self came on and got sophomore Greg Sherry to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice. The Irish racked up five base hits in the fourth inning, but only managed one run.
Elam replaced junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) and tossed a scoreless fifth inning to setup another Irish rally. Pollock laid down a perfect bunt to lead off the inning and cruised home on Barnes’ mammoth two-run bomb to make it 5-4 Louisville.
Elam sent down the Cardinals in order again in the sixth as did Marks for Louisville.
The Cardinals added a key insurance run in the top of the seventh inning. Clark lined an RBI single to left field to push the Cardinals lead to 6-4, but Elam blew away Dominguez on three straight fast balls to end the inning.
Marks sent down the first two Irish batters in the seventh before Tate legged out an infield single, but Marks fanned Barnes to end the inning.
The Cardinals then loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth inning due in large part to back-to-back errors. Wunderlich led off the inning with a double. Elam then got a routine ground ball from Wright to shortstop, but Connolly mishandled the throw at first base. Jeff Arnold then reached on Doyle’s errant throw from third, but the big Texan got Dao to pop out and Haynes to roll into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play to dance out of the jam.
Notre Dame rode the momentum inched back within a run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Intlekofer drew a pinch-hit walk and raced all the way to third on Marks’ errant failed pickoff attempt. After Marks struck out Ashdown, Connolly grounded out to second base to plate Intlekofer to make it 6-5.
The Cardinals again added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, which proved to be critical. Wunderlich’s RBI single off freshman Joe Spano (Verona, N.J.) with the bases loaded gave Louisville a 7-5 lead, but Ashdown kept the deficit one run with a strike from right field to gun down Clark at home for the second out of the inning. Spano then retired Wright to keep the deficit two-runs.
Notre Dame must now wait and see whether or not it has done enough to earn an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Irish have an RPI rating of 45, own five victories over the top-50 and 12 over the top-100 in the RPI.