May 23, 2009
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Freshman Will Hudgins (Richmond, Va.) induced a game-ending double play with the bases loaded to give the Irish a thrilling, 6-5, victory over Louisville to setup an elimination game with the Cardinals later this afternoon for a right to play in tomorrow’s BIG EAST championship game. Notre Dame (36-22) and Louisville (42-15) will play at approximately 5:00 p.m. ET.
Hudgins picked up his third career save, all of which have come against the Cardinals. The sidewinder, who tossed 4.0 scoreless innings for a victory in yesterday’s come-from-behind win over St. John’s, came in the game with the bases loaded and no outs with the Irish holding a 6-3 lead. Ryan Wright followed with a single to cut the Notre Dame lead to 6-4. Hudgins then got Nate Holland to ground into a fielder’s choice as senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) made a nice running play on the grounder and retired a runner at third base.
Chris Dominguez did score to make it 6-5 and Alec Lowry followed with a single, but Louisville did not send the runner setting the stage. John Dao hit a grounder right to Barnes at shortstop, who flipped to defensive replacement Ryne Intlekofer, who in turn tossed to another defensive replacement junior Casey Martin at first base. Intlekofer’s throw was off target, but the 6-for-4 first baseman lunged, caught the throw and somehow managed to keep his foot on the bag to end the game.
The incredible twin-killing made a winner out of junior Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.). The right-handed hurler was incredible. Maust improved to 6-3 on the season and rebounded from quite possibly his worst start of the season earlier this year against Louisville. He was knocked around for five earned runs on six hits in 2.0 innings.
Saturday was another story. Maust continued to keep the ball down in the strike zone and induce ground balls. The righty induced 10 ground ball outs over the first five innings. He continued the trend through the eighth. Maust sent down 20 of the 22 batters he faced between the third and eighth inning. He only allowed a two-out single in the fifth and a solo home run from Dominguez in the sixth.
Maust remained in the game in the ninth, but Andrew Clark doubled off the base of the wall in center and Dominguez drew a walk, the only free pass Maust issued all afternoon. Freshman Joe Spano (Verona, N.J.) entered the game to setup a lefty on lefty situation against Louisville’s Phil Wunderlich, but the Cardinals left fielder singled back up the middle to load the bases.
Hudgins would not hold the fort.
Maust was charged with five runs, four earned, on six hits. He struck out two and walked one.
The Irish broke open a 3-3 tie with three runs in the top of the ninth inning. After Cardinals’ reliever Gabe Shaw retired sophomore Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.), sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) singled and junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) followed with a go-ahead RBI triple to give Notre Dame a 4-3 lead. Junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) followed with another triple to give the Irish a 5-3 lead. The three-bagger fell about 10 feet shy of a two-run home run which would have given the All-American candidate the first cycle by an Irish player since Alec Porzel on May 7, 2000.
Shaw was dealt the loss. The righty was charged with three earned runs on four hits in 2.1 innings of work. Shaw fanned one and walked none.
Pollock settled with his second triple of game and cruised home on sophomore Golden Tate’s (Hendersonville, Tenn.) bloop RBI single giving Notre Dame a much-needed three-run cushion, 6-3.
Pollock finished with his second four-hit game of the tournament. The centerfielder went 4-for-5 with a run scored and RBI. Pollock had nine total bases, which tied for the Notre Dame single-game high this season.
Senior Ryan Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and double, while Doyle went 2-for-4 with a two-run single and solo home run.
Louisville struck in the bottom of the second inning for two runs, one of which was unearned. Wunderlich led off the frame with his 16th home run of the season. Wright then reached on an error by Connolly at first base and the Cardinals took advantage in a downpour. After Maust got back-to-back ground outs, Dao fouled off a handful of pitches before fisting a single over Barnes head at shortstop to give Louisville a 2-0 lead.
Notre Dame struck with a solo home run of its own in the top of the fifth inning. After Louisville starting pitcher Dean Kiekhefer had retired nine consecutive batters, Doyle turned on a 2-2 fast ball and hammered it over the left centerfield wall to cut the Cardinals lead to 2-1. The home run was Doyle’s third of the season.
The Irish and specifically Doyle struck again in the top of the sixth inning. Scioscia singled back up the middle with one out before Connolly ripped a double. Doyle then took a 0-1 fastball to right field to give the Irish a 3-2 advantage.
Kiekheffer was not involved in the decision. The southpaw surrendered three earned runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings of work. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.
— ND —