May 2, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Connecticut used a pair of long balls to grab an early four-run lead before an array of infield and seeing-eye singles to hold off Notre Dame, 8-3, in BIG EAST baseball action from Frank Eck Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Huskies improve to 27-20 overall and 10-10 in the conference, while the Irish drop to 26-19, 10-10.
UConn reliever Scott Oberg picked up the victory in relief. The righty went 2.0 innings and allowed one run, unearned, on three hits. Oberg fanned one without a walk.
Sophomore Brian Dupra (5-5) was charged with the loss. The sophomore lasted just 4.1 innings and was charged with six earned runs on nine hits. Dupra did not issue a walk and struck out two, but surrendered a pair of home runs.
Junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.), sophomore Golden Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) all had two hits for the Irish. Pollock scored two runs and Tate scored a run and drove in a run.
Pierre LePage and Nick Ahmed each had three hits apiece for the Huskies, while George Springer went 2-for-4 with a three-run home run and four RBI.
Connecticut jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. LePage lined a single off the glove of sophomore third baseman Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) and Ahmed then beat out a sacrifice bunt attempt for a hit as Doyle lost his footing charging to field the bunt. After Dupra struck out Mike Nemeth, Springer took a 3-0 fast ball on the outside corner and smacked it over the right field wall for his team-leading 14th home run of the season.
The Irish wasted a golden opportunity for a big inning in the bottom half of the first. Pollock, Tate and Barnes all singled to load the bases with nobody out, but Connecticut starter Elliott Glynn rebounded to strikeout sophomore Matt Scioscia (Westlake Village, Calif.) and Doyle before getting junior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) to ground out to end the inning. Notre Dame dropped its batting average with the bases loaded in BIG EAST action to .231 (3-for-13).
It was a similar story for the Irish in the third inning. Barnes pulled a single inside the third base bag and Scioscia walked to put runners on first and second with just one out, but Doyle struck out. Both runners did move up on a wild pitch, but Glynn got another ground ball off the bat of Martin to strand two more runners on base and two more in scoring position.
Notre Dame left six on the base paths over the first three innings, including four in scoring position.
UConn continued to find holes in the Irish defense in the fifth inning. LePage led off the inning with a seeing-eye single to leftfield before Ahmed hit a grounder that glanced off the gloves of Dupra, Sherry and Barnes before slowly rolling into short centerfield. With runners now on the corners and one out, Nemeth then managed to somehow slap a 1-2 pitch off the plate through the hole for an RBI single. The ball was hit so softly in barely reached the outfield grass, but it still gave the Huskies a 5-0 lead. Springer followed with the only hard hit ball of the inning with an RBI single to left to push the Huskies’ lead to 6-0.
That ended the day for Dupra.
Junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) replaced Dupra with runners on first and second, just one out, and did not allow any further damage. The southpaw got a fielder’s choice ground ball and a pop out to Doyle.
Notre Dame once again mounted a threat in the home half of the fifth inning. Pollock singled to open the frame, the fourth time in five innings the Irish leadoff batter reached. Tate and Barnes followed with free passes to load the bases with nobody out (the second time the Irish loaded the bases with no outs over the first five innings).
Glynn was pulled for Oberg and the Huskies’ reliever promptly got back-to-back infield pop outs before Sharpley came through with a clutch two-strike, two-out and two-run single to bring Notre Dame within four runs, 6-2. It was Notre Dame’s fourth hit in 16 at-bats with the bases loaded in conference play.
Ashdown followed with another two-out base hit, but Peter Fatse made a perfect throw from left field to get Barnes by a step at home.
Glynn did not make it out of the fifth. The lefty was charged with two earned runs on five hits. Glynn walked four and struck out three.
After Mills kept the Huskies off the scoreboard in the sixth, the Irish inched closer in the bottom half of the frame. Pollock reached on a two-base error from Fatse in left and came around to score on Tate’s RBI single back up the middle to make it 6-3.
Mills worked around a Huskies’ leadoff double in the seventh. The junior got a pair of fly balls to left field before getting a ground out from Matt Burnett to end the inning.
Doug Elliott opened the eighth inning with another infield single off the glove of an Irish pitcher. Dale Brannon executed a sacrifice bunt to advance pinch runner Joe Pavone into scoring position.
Notre Dame went to freshman right-hander Will Hudgins. After a walk, Hudgins then induced LePage into what appeared to be a tailor-made double play ground ball headed directly to Sherry, but the ball took a crazy hop off the pitcher’s mound and bounded over the Irish second baseman’s head for an RBI single. Hudgins got another ground ball off the bat of Ahmed, but the Huskies shortstop was able to beat out the possible inning-ending double play to plate another run to give UConn an 8-3 advantage.
Mills went a career-long 3.0 innings and yielded one earned run on three hits. He walked one and punched out two.
Notre Dame returns to action tomorrow afternoon with the third and final game of the series with the Huskies. First pitch at Frank Eck Stadium is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Junior right-handed hurler Eric Maust (5-2, 5.16 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Irish.
— ND —