April 5, 2007
CINCINNATI – Notre Dame jumped out to a 3-0 lead but ultimately stranded 13 runners on base and allowed three costly unearned runs in the 5th inning, as homestanding Cincinnati posted the 4-3 win in Thursday-night BIG EAST baseball action at Marge Schott Stadium.
Notre Dame (13-15, 1-5 BIG EAST) claimed the early lead after first-inning hits from Brett Lilley, Ross Brezovsky – who was making his first career start batting in the 3-hole – Danny Dressman and Jeremy Barnes. Senior righthander Dan Kapala (0-3) had yet another tough-luck outing, with his own two-out throwing error opening the door for Cincinnati (16-13, 3-4) in the bottom of the 5th. Speedy leadoff batter Tony Campana then stole second and Kapala walked two batters before Neall French sent a dipping linedrive to right field. Freshman rightfielder Brayden Ashdown tried to make the lunging catch as he ran forward, but the ball skipped by him for a bases-clearing triple that suddenly gave the Bearcats the 4-3 lead.
Kapala allowed the four runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks, while striking out three in 6.0 innings. His resulting 1.46 ERA remains among the best in the BIG EAST this season, as he would rank thirrd among the league’s ERA leaders but is a few innings shy of the minimum (1.0 IP per team game).
Cincinnati opted to keep sophomore righthander Steve Blevins (5-4) in the game through the end of the eighth inning, with the all-BIG EAST performer racking up 141 pitches on the brisk night while allowing the three runs on 10 hits and four walks, with five Ks. Righthander Billy Welsh – a transfer from Tennessee Tech – then closed out the game for his fourth save of the season.
The Irish totaled 17 baserunners in the game, which marked the sixth time this season that unearned runs have provided Notre Dame’s margin of defeat. The Irish also have held a midgame lead in each of those six frustrating losses. Notre Dame finished with a 10-6 hit edge, but the visitors batted just 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Lilley (3-for-4) moved atop the team batting charts with a .396 season average and now is 8-for-9 in two career games versus Cincinnati.
Notre Dame is just 1-3 in one-run games this season (1-2 in games decided by 2-run margins) and Friday will be looking to improve on its 1-6 record when playing on the opponent’s field. The Irish have gone 11-1 when scoring 5-plus runs this season but are just 2-14 when held to four or fewer runs (1-11 when scoring 0-3 runs).
The Irish pushed their 1st-inning scoring margin to 28-18 with the three quick scores, sparked by Lilley’s first-pitch chopped over the third baseman’s head. A.J. Pollock then popped up his sac. bunt attempt but Brezovsky followed Lilley’s lead with an opposite-field single, driving a 2-1 pitch into left field. Tony Langford’s rightside groundout plated the first run and Dressman then won a ninth-pitch battle with Blevins by dropping a 2-2 pitch into center field for an RBI single. Dressman alertly took second on the throw (with neither middle infielder covering the bag) and scored on another clutch two-out hit, as Jeremy Barnes went with a 3-2 pitch and sent it through the right side for the third opposite-field hit of the half-inning.
Lilley now has reached base in the 1st inning of 15 games this season, batting 12-for-25 (.480) with a walk and two times hit-by-pitch in the opening frame (he has been the leadoff hitter in all 28 games). He has scored 12 runs in the 1st inning, with the Irish going 8-4 in those games.
During the first 20 games of the season, the Irish went 10-1 when outhitting their opponent but now have lost three recent games despite owning the hit edge (including twice vs. USF; now 12-4 overall with the hit edge).
Notre Dame’s 17 baserunners included two who were stranded on third base, five left on second base and another who was forced out going from third to second. The Irish had runners on the corners with no outs in the 3rd before opening the 4tht with a pair of singles (Blevins rolled up a key double-play ball to end that threat). The visitors then loaded the bases with two outs in the 7th (earlier two on with one out) and similarly had two on with just one out in the 8th.
Lilley has reached base 66 times this season via hits (41), walks (14) or HBPs (11) but the Irish have brought him home just 50 percent of the time (33 runs). Notre Dame actually is batting .324 with runners in scoring position for the season (well above the team’s .291 overall batting avg.) but Notre Dame’s two-out batting avg. is just .250 and the team has produced the RBI with runners on third base and fewer than 2-outs just 60% of the time this season (53 of 89).
As with many of Notre Dame’s offensive stats this season, the team’s efficiency has been skewed to opposite extremes in the wins and losses. Most notably, the Irish are batting .385 in their wins (.415 with runners in scoring position, .336 with 2-outs) but just .201 in the losses – including only .171 with runners in scoring position and .167 with 2-outs. That’s a disparity of 244 batting points when having prime RBI chances (.415 with RISP in the wins, .171 in the losses). Just as glaring is the team’s ratio of runs to runners left on base, with 132 runs/109 LOB in the wins compared to 33 runs/122 LOB in the losses. The Irish are averaging 10 runs and 8.4 LOB in their wins (1.2 ratio of runs to LOB) while managing just 2.2 runs/gm but totaling 8.1 LOB/gm in the losses (for a 0.27 ratio of runs to LOB; or roughly 4 LOB for every run scored), with ND +23 in the R/LOB margin during wins but -89 in the losses.
Notre Dame 3-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 3 10 1
Cincinnati 0-0-0 1-3-0 0-0-0 – 4 6 2
Triple: Neall French (CIN).
Doubles: Brett Lilley (ND), Jamel Scott (CIN).