Senior Ryan Connolly.

Irish Down Chicago State, 6-4

April 13, 2010

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A two-RBI double off the bat of senior Brayden Ashdown gave the Irish the lead for good in the fifth inning of a 6-4 victory over Chicago State in Tuesday baseball action from Frank Eck Stadium. Ashdown also delivered a two-out RBI base hit in the third inning, giving him a career-high tying three RBI in the contest and seven over his last five games.

After the Cougars scored three times in the top half of the fifth, Notre Dame strung together three consecutive hits to quickly regain the lead. A single from senior Casey Martin and a two-bagger off the bat of junior Mick Doyle put runners on second and third with one out, bringing up Ashdown, who drilled a double off the left field wall to score both runners and put the Irish on top to stay.

Sophomore Will Hudgins bounced back from the loss against Rutgers by turning in the longest (and arguably the best) outing of his career to pick up the win (2-1). He worked 4.1 innings in relief and yielded just a run on four hits, falling just one out shy of finishing the game after entering in the fifth inning. Senior David Mills needed just two pitches to record the final out and notch his second career save.

Freshman Adam Norton started for the Irish and held the Cougars off the board for the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Norton gave up the three runs on six hits in 4.1 innings with a punchout and a pair of walks.

Starter Gregory Day (0-1) was saddled with the loss in his first start of the season but pitched relatively well, holding the lead briefly before exiting after 4.1 innings. Notre Dame pushed across four runs (all earned) against the right-hander, who walked three and struck out one.

Senior Ryan Connolly also drove in multiple runs for Notre Dame, going 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI to extend his streak of reaching base to 43 consecutive games. Connolly has now driven in 37 runs during the streak to go along with 10 home runs, 14 doubles, and averages of .353 (batting average), .660 (slugging), and .479 (on-base). Martin also picked up a pair of hits and drove home the other Irish tally.

Senior Billy Boockford and Connolly got the home team on the board in the second inning, with Connolly doubling past a diving William Hill (the grandson of Cubs Hall-of-Famer Billy Williams, who was in attendance) in left with two outs to bring home Boockford from second base. A break for the Cougars prevented a big inning, as Patrick Hernandez dove and short-hopped Greg Sherry’s one-out liner to the gap in right-center, but the umpire ruled that Hernandez had caught the ball in the air.

Norton cruised through the first four innings, putting up four zeroes and displaying some defensive prowess along the way. The freshman allowed a leadoff single to Austin McDowell in the first but then bounced off the mound to start a 1-6-3 double play on Hill’s attempted sacrifice bunt. Then after a double by Kevin Hussey to start the third, Norton snagged a one-hopper back through the box for the first out before Doyle made a diving stop up the middle and nabbed the runner at first to keep the Cougars off the board.

The Irish played add-on in the third, as another two-out knock plated a runner from second base. This time Mills singled to begin the inning, advanced to second on a swinging bunt by Martin, and trotted home when Ashdown laced a 1-0 offering from Day over a leaping Miguel Camacho at third, putting Notre Dame ahead 2-0.

Norton bore down all night with a three-ball count, throwing seven consecutive three-ball strikes to begin his outing, but his first two misfires cost him in the fifth inning. Albert Carpen led off with a bunt single to the right side, stole second, and advanced to third on a ground out before Norton walked both Billy Les and Camacho to fill the bases. Freshman Frank Desico saved a run by smothering Michael Carpin’s ground ball, but a run scored on the infield single to make the score 2-1. McDowell then doubled down the left field line to plate a pair and put the Cougars on top, 3-2. Chicago State appeared to add to its lead with new pitcher Hudgins on the mound when Christian Prince just beat Doyle’s throw to first on a potential double play, but the potential became actual when the runner barreling toward Doyle was called out for interference to end the inning.

The two walks in the inning for Norton were the first he has issued in his career; 51 batters had come to the plate against the right-hander before one finally drew a base on balls.

After the Irish took the lead again, a Chicago State error in the sixth paved the way for a key Irish insurance run. With one out, Camacho bounced his throw to first on DeSico’s ground ball, allowing the freshman to advance all the way to second, and Martin then smacked a clutch two-out line drive up the middle to bring DeSico around.

The Cougars still would not go away, however, adding a run in the seventh to close to within one at 5-4. A double by Les and a single by Camacho put runners on the corners with nobody out before Michael Carpen drove home Les with a fielder’s choice. Another double play ground ball, the fourth of the day for the Irish defense, ended the threat. The four double plays were the most for the Irish since they turned four last season against Western Michigan; the feat is so rare, however, that it has now been accomplished by a Notre Dame team just four times in the last 12 seasons.

Notre Dame continued feeding ones to the scoreboard, tacking on another run in the seventh inning, and it would be too much for Chicago State to overcome. Connolly notched his second RBI of the game with a line-drive single to left, putting the Irish up 6-4, the eventual final score.

Next up for the Irish are the Seton Hall Pirates, who welcome Notre Dame to town for the first time since 2006. Game times for the weekend series at Owen T. Carroll Field are set for 6 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday, and noon on Sunday.

— ND —