March 21, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Leadoff batter Brett Lilley went 4-for-5 and posted a rare five-run game while freshman A.J. Pollock added five hits from the second spot in the batting order, as the Notre Dame baseball team won on Wednesday night for the sixth time in the past seven games, 17-9 over Western Michigan. Eleven different Irish players collected hits as part of the highest hit total (22) for Notre Dame since the 2002 College World Series season.
Notre Dame (10-9) registered season-high totals for runs (17), hits and extra-base hits (7), with Pollock smacking an early home run, Lilley later adding a triple and five other Irish players chipping in with doubles. Junior righthander Tony Langford was awarded the win, after making his first appearance on the mound since the 2005 season. Langford – who missed all of his sophomore season due to elbow surgery – faced just four batters in the sixth inning, allowing a lone hit to help maintain the midgame cushion.
Senior centerfielder Danny Dressman (2-for-3, 2 R, sac. bunt) extended his hitting streak to seven games and upped his season batting average to .364 while turning in another strong game from the 3-hole, with three others adding multiple hits to the big attack: graduate-student catcher Matt Weglarz (2-for-3, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB, HBP, 2B), sophomore leftfielder Jeremy Barnes (2-for-4, 2 RBI, R, 2B) and freshman second baseman Ryne Intlekofer (2-for-4, 2 RBI, R, 2B). Weglarz reached base four times and either scored or drove in five of the runs while six of his seven hits this season have gone for extra bases (5 2B, HR). Sophomore Ryan Connolly came off the bench to hit his team-leading sixth double of the season, to go along with three singles.
Notre Dame’s trend for posting big-run innings continued with eight runners scoring in the bottom of the 4th, marking the third time this season that the Irish have scored seven or more runs in an inning (also seven in the 6th vs. #7 Nebraska and eight in the 7th vs. Duquesne). Just one inning earlier, Notre Dame had scored four in the 3rd – part of a whopping 12 ND runs in the span of two frames that gives the Irish 11 different innings this season with four or more runs.
Pollock’s 5-for-6 game (2 RBI, 2 R) elevated him atop the team batting charts, with his season batting average rising to .390. The rookie third baseman was batting just .133 in early March before going 3-for-4 to play a lead role in the 16-6 win over 7th-ranked Nebraska. He now has hits in eight of the past nine games, batting at a .487 clip (18-for-37) during that two-week stretch.
The Notre Dame record book includes 30 former players – among them Lilley and current senior catcher Sean Gaston – who have posted five or more hits in a game a total of 32 times (the record of six hits in a game is shared by Alec Porzel and Steve Sollmann). Pollock joins another short list as one of five Notre Dame freshmen ever to post a five-hit game. Lilley is the only freshman ever to collect five hits in a home opener (5-for-5 vs. Cincinnati, in 2005), with Pollock coming one game shy of matching that feat. Gaston went 5-for-6 early in the 2004 season versus Florida Memorial (at Florida Atlantic) while centerfielder Scott Sollmann hit 5-for-6 at Purdue in his freshman season (5/10/94) and first baseman Joe Binkiewicz had a 5-for-5 game vs. Dayton as a rookie in the late 1980s (5/20/89).
This marks the first time in Notre Dame baseball history that three players (Gaston, Lilley and Pollock) from the same Irish team have held the distinction of posting five-hit games in their freshman seasons. Gaston and Lilley both are lefthanded hitters are were part of a four-year stretch that saw five of the seven ND batters that posted 5-plus hits in a game be lefthanded batters (that trend now has reversed, following Craig Cooper’s 5-hit game vs. Rutgers in 2006 and fellow righthanded hitter Pollock’s 5-hit game vs. WMU).
Western Michigan has been a regular opponent in noteworthy individual accomplishments by Notre Dame players during the past few years. Matt Edwards tied an ND record with three home runs in the 2005 game vs. WMU while John Axford (12 Ks, in 2003) and current junior lefthander Wade Korpi (11 Ks, in ’06) own two of the top strikeout totals by an Irish player in the 14-year history of Eck Stadium (both of those high K totals came vs. WMU).
Lilley’s four hits and a walk led to him crossing home plate five times, becoming just the ninth player in Notre Dame history (and only the fifth since the early 1900s) who is known to have scored five-plus runs in a game. More impressively, the junior shortstop now joins three former All-America infielders – 1998 third baseman Brant Ust, the younger Sollmann brother (second baseman Steve) and third baseman Matt Macri – to post five or more hits in a game while also scoring five or more runs in a single game. Ust achieved both marks in the same game (5-for-5 with 5 runs at Seton Hall, on 5/5/01), as did Sollmann (6-for-7, 6 runs) in the record-setting 25-1 win over South Alabama during the 2002 NCAA South Bend Regional.
That leaves Macri and Lilley with the rarest of distinctions, as players who have turned in five-plus hits in one game while scoring five or more times in another. Macri crossed the plate five times in an early-season win over Minnesota (19-7, at FAU) during that 2004 season and then went 5-for-6 on the final week of the regular season, in a 11-10 loss to Virginia Tech. Lilley – who pushed his season batting average to .370 (to go along with a .477 on-base pct.) – joins Macri, Sollmann, Ust and Pat Pesavento (5 vs. Penn, in ’89) as the only Notre Dame players since 1901 who are known to have scored more than five runs in a game.
The 22 hits by Notre Dame tie for the fifth-most by one team (fourth-most by an ND team) in Eck Stadium history and are the most hits at The Eck since the 2002 team pounded out 32 in the historic Regional win over South Alabama. The 17 runs tie for the ninth-most in the stadium’s history and match the sixth-most by an Irish team in an Eck Stadium game (again the most since that 25-1 win over South Alabama, in ’02).
Since that big win over the USA Jaguars, the Irish had reached 20 hits in a handful of games over the past five seasons but had yet to reach 21 (much less 22), with Wednesday’s 22-hit attack representing the most by an ND baseball team in the past 278 games. The 17 runs are the most for the Irish in nearly 100 games (94), dating back to the 21-1 win at Pittsburgh late in the 2005 season (5/16/05). The aforementioned 2002 win over South Alabama was the last time that an Eck Stadium crowd had been treated to more than 16 runs from the home team (or the visitors, for that matter).
Since suffering a 4-0 shutout loss to Harvard on March 11, the Irish have gone 6-1 while doubling up the opposition in scoring (64-32) and amassing 91 hits – on .358 hitting – in that seven-game span (avg. of 9 runs, 13 hits).
Pollock’s five hits included a bunt single in the 1st versus righthander Tom Mowry (0-2), as he beat out the sac. bunt attempt that helped plate the game’s first run (Lilley had hit an opposite-field single to left and moved up on a wild pitch, before later scoring on a Dressman groundout). The second Pollock hit was a more memorable one in the four-run bottom of the 3rd, as he connected for his second home run of the season (but first since the opener by driving a 1-0 pitch from over the fence in right-center.
The pace of the game interestingly saw Lilley lead off (and Pollock bat second) in the 1st, 3rd and 4th innings. Pollock picked up his third hit of the night in the 4th vs. lefthander Brian Schutzbach, going the other way on a 3-1 pitch for a single through the right side of the infield. He added a single later in the inning (vs. RHP Drew Mahan), driving a 1-2 pitch into center field for an RBI single. Pollock’s only out of the night was a 6th-inning groundout (vs. RHP Dan Coberley) but he later sent the first pitch he saw from righthander Derek Schlecker into right field to complete the five-hit night (the final four hits came vs. four different pitchers).
In addition to Pollock’s home run, the four Irish runs in the 3rd included five other hits – doubles by Mike Dury, Weglarz and Barnes, plus singles by Dressman and Brayden Ashdown – to go along with a sac. fly off the bat of Ross Brezovsky. The big inning in the 4th then featured 14 Irish batters and seven hits: the two from Pollock, a leadoff single and two-run triple from Lilley, and 2-out singles by Barnes (2 RBI), Intlekofer (2 RBI) and Dressman, plus Dressman’s 26th career sac. bunt (good for 6th in ND history), walks by Weglarz (bases loaded) and Ashdown, and Dury reaching on a hit-by-pitch. All eight of the runs ended up being unearned (five straight up and three to the team ERA only), due to Schutzbach’s fielding error on the Dressman bunt early in the inning.
Sophomore lefthander Sam Elam logged three shutout innings for the Irish before allowing three runs in the 4th, ultimately finishing his stint with four hits and four walks allowed, plus one strikeout. Freshman righthander Andrew Scheid (R, 3 H, BB, 2 Ks) and Langford each pitch an inning of middle relief and were followed by three more members of the Irish bullpen.
Western Michigan (4-11) 0-0-0 3-1-0 1-4-0 – 9 13 3
Notre Dame (10-9) 1-0-4 8-0-2 0-2-0 – 17 22 2
Tim Mowry (L, 0-2), Brian Schutzbach (3), Drew Mahan (5), Dan Coberley (6), Brett Newsome (7), Derek Schlecker (8) and Kevin Hess.
Sam Elam, Andrew Scheid (5), Tony Langford (6; W, 1-0), David Mills (7), Steven Mazur (8), Brett Graffy (8) and Matt Weglarz, Chris Soriano (7).
Home Runs: A.J. Pollock, ND (solo in 3rd; 2nd of season); Joe McDonald, WMU (solo in 7th 1st of season); Kyle Galbraith, WMU (1 on in 8th; 2nd of season).
Triple: Brett Lilley (ND)
Doubles: Mike Dury (ND), Matt Weglarz (ND), Ryan Connolly (ND), Jeremy Barnes (ND), Ryne Intlekofer (ND), Zach Gentile 2 (WMU)