March 20, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame baseball team’s long-awaited home opener produced a win for the Irish and first-year head coach Dave Schrage, as freshman righthander Eric Maust overcame an early deficit to help deliver Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Cleveland State. Sophomore closer Kyle Weiland also had to work out of his own jam at the end of the game before ultimately registering his first save of the season and the 17th of his young Notre Dame career.
Maust (1-0) – a backup punter on the Notre Dame football team and the first freshman pitcher to start the home opener for the Irish since Ryan Doherty beat Toledo in 2003 – allowed a double and single to the first two batters of the game but he nearly escaped without allowing an early run, thanks to a pair of strikeouts and an acrobatic play by shortstop Brett Lilley that came close to ending the threat. Lilley’s throw after the tough fielding play was wide of first base, allowing a run to score, but Maust pitched well the rest of the way in his first start of the season. Maust went on to allow an unearned run in the third inning and ultimately scattered six hits over five full innings, with no walks allowed and three strikeouts in a 52-pitch outing that impressively saw him find the strike zone nearly 80 percent of the time (with 43 strikes).
Notre Dame (9-9), now victorious in five of its past six games, quickly responded with three runs in the second inning and matched CSU’s run in the third before tacking on what proved to be a valuable insurance run in the eighth. Freshman rightfielder Brayden Ashdown shook off a slow start at the plate this season by batting 2-for-4 with an RBI single and run-scoring double. Senior captains Danny Dressman (RBI) and Mike Dury (run) also hit 2-for-4, with Dressman surging atop the team batting charts (.349) – thanks to 13-for-24 batting (.542) in his current six-game hitting streak.
The Irish had been 0-5 when seeing the opponent score first but now have overcome 1st-inning leads by the opponent in each of the past two games. The switch-hitting Dury sparked Notre Dame’s three runs in the 2nd, by slicing a 2-1 pitch from righthander Brian Long down the leftfield line for an opposite-field single (he took second when the leftfielder bobbled the ball). A wild pitch moved Dury to third and Ross Brezovsky delivered the RBI two batters later, sending a first-pitch single into center field.
Another error allowed Jeremy Barnes to reach and Ashdown followed with an opposite-field single into the right-center gap, connecting on a 2-2 pitch to plate Brezovsky for the 2-1 lead. The Vikings then executed a pickoff play to erase Ashdown, with Barnes scoring on the play from third (as CSU traded the out for the run).
Junior shortstop Brett Lilley added his own opposite-field single to open the bottom of the 3rd, winning a full-count battle with a hit through the left side of the infield. A.J. Pollock then bunted the runner into scoring position and Dressman went the other way on an 0-2 pitch, sending yet another opposite-field single into left field for a 4-2 lead.
A pair of righthanders – junior Joey Williamson (2 IP, R, 2 BB, 3 Ks) and senior Jess Stewart (1 IP, 2 H, K) – provided solid middle relief, with Stewart letting in an inherited runner from Williamson in the 8th (ending Stewart’s streak of stranding six previous inherited runners this season). Weiland then allowed a pair of walks in the 9th but also struck out two to close out the game.
Notre Dame lowered its BIG EAST-leading team ERA to 3.02, with Maust (3.29), Stewart (0.59) and Weiland (1.59) each dropping their individual ERAs.
The Irish won their home opener for just the second time in the past four years but now are 10-3 in home openers dating back to 1995.
Cleveland State (2-13) 1-0-1 0-0-0 0-1-0 – 3 8 5
Notre Dame (9-9) 0-3-1 0-0-1 0-0-X – 5 9 2
Doubles: Brayden Ashdown (ND), Wayne Richardson (CSU), Rich Ranells (CSU).