Sophomore Cameron McConnell added a key two-run triple in the five-run eighth inning.

Five-Run Eighth Propels Irish Baseball To Sweep, 9-3

April 4, 2009

By Sam Hovland

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame broke open a 4-3 game by scoring five times in the eighth on the strength of triples by senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Tex.) and sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) to defeat Villanova, 9-3, and complete the weekend sweep. The sweep was the first in the BIG EAST for the Irish since they swept Villanova last season (April 11-13). Junior Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.) turned in an outstanding performance on the mound, falling just two outs shy of the third consecutive complete game victory for the Irish (19-10, 5-4).

Sophomore David Casey (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) went 2-for-2 and reached base in all four plate appearances. Casey is now batting .550 (11-for-20) over his past six games. Barnes, McConnell and sophomore Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) had two hits apiece for Notre Dame, with Barnes driving in three and McConnell two. Sophomore Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) turned in a magnificent defensive effort, recording seven assists in the game and 14 on the day without an error.

Maust pitched 8.1 innings, giving up three runs on six hits to improve to 3-2 on the year. Maust walked a career high four, but just one after the third inning. Barnes came on in the ninth to record the last two outs after Maust gave up two hits in the inning.

Reliever Kyle Carver (0-1) took the loss for Villanova (14-15, 1-8) after yielding an unearned run on catcher Wesley Borden’s throwing error. Chris Pack started and worked 4.2 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits.

In the eighth inning, pinch hitter Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.) led off and worked a walk from Villanova reliever Mike Francisco. After a sacrifice bunt by junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.), junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) walked and junior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) followed with a bloop single to right to load the bases. Barnes put the Irish up by four at 7-3 with a bases-clearing triple to left center, his fifth triple of the year, tying him with Villanova center fielder Joe Cotter for the BIG EAST lead. Barnes’ tripled moved him into a third place tie on the all-time list at Notre Dame with 14. After a Sherry walk, Cameron McConnell laced a triple off the right field wall, his second of the year, to plate Barnes and Sherry and round out the scoring for the Irish.

Villanova opened the game with a run in the first, their first lead of the series. With one out, Joe Rosati singled, stole second and came around to score on Matt McFolling’s single through the right side. The Wildcats later loaded the bases with two outs, but Maust got David Koczirka to fly out to right to hold Villanova to one run.

Villanova opened up a 2-0 lead in the second when Rosati doubled home Tyler Sciacca with two outs.

Notre Dame answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning. Pack walked Sherry and McConnell to begin the inning and moved both runners up with a balk. Doyle drove in Sherry with a groundout, but McConnell was left on third base after sophomore Golden Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.) struck out and Mills popped out to end the inning.

The Wildcats added to their lead in the third on another two out double. Joe Cotter walked with one out, and with two outs David Koczirka hit a fly ball to short right that went off the glove of a charging David Mills for a double, scoring Cotter and giving Villanova a 3-1 lead.

The Irish answered with single runs in the third and fourth to tie the game. In the third, Casey hit a one-out double down the left field line and Barnes followed with an infield single to put runners on the corners with one out. Sophomore Matt Scioscia (Westlake Village, Calif.) then drove in Casey with a groundout to bring the Irish within one run. In the fourth, Doyle and Tate singled to start the inning, and Mills moved both runners up with his fifth sacrifice bunt of the year.Pollock then brought Doyle home with a ground ball to second, tying the game at three.

Notre Dame rode the legs of Pollock to take the lead in the sixth. He was hit by a Carver fastball with one out and then stole second base. After David Casey walked, Pollock broke for third base and Villanova catcher Wesley Borden threw to second to try to nab Casey on the back end of the double steal. The throw hopped into center field for an error, allowing Pollock to score and Casey to advance to third. Carver bounced back to strike out Barnes looking and induce Scioscia to ground out to end the inning and keep the Irish lead at one, 4-3.

Maust settled down after the third and faced just one over the minimum number of batters in the fourth through the eighth innings, allowing no hits over that stretch.

A.J. Pollock stole two bases for the Irish, giving him 14 on the season, but was held hitless for the second consecutive game for just the second time this season.

Joe Rosati and David Koczirka each had two hits and an RBI for the Wildcats, who fell to 6-31-1 against the Irish all time, including 0-16-1 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame returns to action on Tuesday night with the second annual Battle of the Bend exhibition against the South Bend Silverhawks – Single A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. First pitch at Coveleski Stadium is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

— ND —