Sophomore Todd Miller took the loss Thursday afternoon.

Illinois State Uses Infield RBI Single In Ninth Inning To Slip Past Irish, 3-2

March 12, 2009

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SAN ANTONIO – Sophomore Cole Johnson (Hudson, Ohio) tossed his second straight quality outing, but Illinois State used an infield RBI single from Eric Mahler in the top of the ninth inning to break up a 2-2 tie and give the Redbirds a 3-2 victory over Notre Dame in college baseball action from the Irish Baseball Classic Thursday afternoon. Notre Dame drops to 7-5 on the year, while Illinois State improves to 6-5.

With the game deadlocked at 2-2, the Irish had a golden opportunity to regain the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Notre Dame had a runner in scoring position with one out and eventually loaded the bases with two outs, but was unable to come through with the needed clutch hit.

The Redbirds did the opposite in their half of the ninth inning. Corey Maines led off the frame with a double and moved to third base on Ryan Court’s sacrifice bunt. After sophomore Todd Miller (Franklin, Tenn.) got Matt Mirabal to ground out with the infield in, Mahler legged out an infield single to give Illinois State a 3-2 advantage.

Notre Dame went quietly in the bottom of the ninth inning as Redbirds closer Jim Sajewich retired the Irish 1-2-3. Sajewich picked up the victory and evened his record at 1-1. The righty tossed 2.0 scoreless and hitless innings of relief.

Miller was credited with the loss. He drops to 1-2 on the season. Miller allowed one earned run on two hits in 2.0 innings of work.

The Irish continued to struggle from the plate as no player registered more than one hit. Over its last six games (starting with last weekend’s Rice Classic opener against Oral Roberts, Notre Dame is batting .202 overall with just nine extra-base hits. The Irish are even worse with runners in scoring position as Notre Dame is hitting only 8-for-59 (.136).

Illinois State grabbed a 1-0 second inning lead. Evan Kohli drew a leadoff walk and Anthony Ruffolo then dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Instead of taking the for sure out at first base, Johnson turned with the idea of retiring the lead runner, but neither Irish middle infielder covered the second base bag and by the time he turned again to make a the play at first base, Ruffalo had legged out the infield single. Johnson struck out Maines for the first out of the inning, but Court lined a single back up the middle to give the Redbirds the 1-0 lead.

Notre Dame wasted no time and answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the second to take a 2-1 advantage. Senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) roped a double off the left field wall and moved to third base following junior Brayden Ashdown’s (Tucson, Ariz.) fly out to right field. Sophomore Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) followed with a walk, stole second and raced home just behind Barnes on sophomore Cameron McConnell’s (Bannockburn, Ill.) two-strike, two-run single.

Johnson kept Illinois State off the scoreboard over the third, fourth and fifth innings before running into some trouble in the top of the sixth. Kohli opened the frame with a perfectly placed bloop single and Ruffolo followed with another bloop single in nearly the identical spot to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Johnson did induce a 5-4-3 double play, but Kohli was able to coast home to tie the game, 2-2.

Johnson cruised through the seventh inning as he retired Illinois State on five pitches. The right-handed hurler did not factor in the decision, but registered his third straight quality start. Johnson went 7.0 innings and allowed just two earned runs on five hits. He struck out three and walked five.

Redbirds’ starter Ryan Copeland was just as good. The southpaw also tossed 7.0 innings, but fell short of his fourth consecutive complete game of the year. Copeland yielded just two earned runs on four hits. He fanned four and walked three. The three walks tied a career-high and were the most in an outing by Copeland since a May 17, 2007 against Wichita State. He walked just nine all season a year ago in 89.1 innings, which led the nation in fewest walks per nine innings.

The Irish return to action Friday afternoon with their second game of the 2009 Irish Classic against Texas-Pan American. First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. CT.

— ND —