May 10, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Pittsburgh took advantage of a crucial Notre Dame error and plated two unearned runs in the top of the seventh inning to get past the Irish, 5-3, in BIG EAST college baseball action from Frank Eck Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Irish drop to 33-14-1 overall and 16-7 in the conference, while the Panthers improve to 18-30 and 7-16.
After junior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) belted his seventh home run of the season to tie the score, 3-3, in the bottom of the sixth inning, Pittsburgh answered in the top of the seventh inning. With one out, Notre Dame senior starting pitcher Wade Korpi (Lake Worth, Fla.) got Zach Duggan to ground to shortstop, but senior Brett Lilley (North Canton, Ohio) mishandled the ground ball for an error. Danny Lopez then dropped a bloop single in front of Irish right fielder Billy Boockford (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) to put runners on first and second for Sean Conley. Conley followed with an RBI double just inside the right field line to plate Duggan (who reached on the error) giving the Panthers a 4-3 lead.
Freshman Cole Johnson (Hudson, Ohio) replaced Korpi and induced back-to-back ground balls to end the inning, but not before the Panthers scored another unearned run on Dan Williams ground out.
Now trailing 5-3, Notre Dame threatened in their half of the seventh inning. Junior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) and senior Sean Gaston (Brownsburg, Ind.) reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk to open the frame. Boockford, who has registered 10 sacrifice bunts on the season, was not able to successfully execute the sacrifice as pinch runner Ryne Intlekofer (Moorpark, Calif.) was forced out at third base. Freshman Matt Scioscia (Westlake Village, Calif.) would pinch-hit for freshman Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.), but Pittsburgh would counter with right-handed reliever Ricky Breymeir.
The Irish would then pinch hit junior Evan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.) for Scioscia, but the first baseman would strikeout for the second out of the inning. Lilley followed with a seeing-eye single to left field, but Gaston was thrown out at the plate by Panthers left fielder Conley to end the inning.
Breymeir then worked around a two-out single from Gaston in the bottom of the ninth inning to pick up the victory. He improved to 3-2 on the season. Breymeir tossed 2.2 scoreless innings of relief. He allowed just two hits and registered a strikeout (did not issue a walk).
Conley provided most of the Pittsburgh offense. He went 3-for-4 with a couple runs scored and an RBI. He has killed the Irish over the past two seasons. Conley is 9-for-15 with five runs scored, four doubles and two RBI over the last four meetings. Prior to 2007, Conley was just 3-for-24 in his career against Notre Dame.
Korpi was charged with the loss and dropped to 6-3 on the year. The southpaw allowed just three earned runs (five runs total) on eight hits over 6.1 innings of work. He struck out three and walked just one.
The Irish grabbed a 2-0 lead with a pair of solo runs in the second and third inning. Martin put Notre Dame ahead, 1-0, with an RBI single and sophomore A.J. Pollock made it 2-0 with an RBI ground out.
Pittsburgh answered with runs in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth inning. Morgan Kielty singled home Conley, who reached when Pollock misplayed a fly ball into a double, in the fourth. Duggan added a sacrifice fly to even the game, 2-2, in the fifth before Chris Warner’s RBI ground out gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
Pittsburgh starter Rob Brant, who entered the game with a 0-6 record, struggled with his command early, but settled down and worked 6.1 innings. The left-handed hurler kept Notre Dame off-balance all afternoon and limited the Irish to just three runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits. Brant struck out three and walked four.
Barnes also scored two runs, in addition to the solo home run. Gaston was the only Irish player with a multi-hit game.
Notre Dame returns to action Sunday afternoon with the third and final game of the series. Sophomore Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.) will take the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. and can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1490 AM and UND.com.
— ND —