Junior RHP Cole Johnson.

Irish Overwhelm St. John's, 14-5, In BIG EAST Tournament Opener

May 19, 2009

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CLEARWATER, Fla. – Junior A.J. Pollock went 4-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI to pace a 17-hit Notre Dame attack as the Irish raced past St. John’s, 14-5, in first day action from the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament at Bright House Networks Field Tuesday morning. Notre Dame improves to 34-21, while the Red Storm drops to 29-21.

Pollock (Hebron, Conn., who entered today’s game without a hit in 10 career at-bats at the BIG EAST tournament, registered his second four-hit game of the season and fifth of his career. The centerfielder had a RBI singles, RBI double and sacrifice fly. Senior Jeremy Barnes went 3-for-5 with three RBI and a solo home run – his 13th of the season. Sophomore Golden Tate went 2-for-5 with a run scored and RBI.

Pollock, Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and Barnes (Garland, Texas) combined for nine hits and seven RBI.

Sophomore Cole Johnson improved to 7-2 on the season with his second consecutive victory over St. John’s. The right-handed hurler tossed 6.0 innings and allowed three runs, only two earned, on four hits. He struck out six and walked two. Johnson (Hudson, Ohio) has pitched at least 6.0 innings in 11 of his 13 starts this season. He allowed just one earned run on two hits in 7.0 innings against the Red Storm in his last start on May 14.

Sophomore Todd Miller picked up his fifth save of the season with 3.0 innings of relief. Miller (Franklin, Tenn.) allowed a pair of earned runs on six hits. He fanned one and did not issue a walk. Miller has not issued a walk over his last six relief appearances spanning 13.0 innings of work.

Sophomore Mick Doyle and sophomore Cameron McConnell each added two hits, while sophomore Greg Sherry drove in two. Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) scored three run and McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) added two runs scored and two RBI. Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) registered three runs scored.

Nick Cenatiempo was charged with the loss. The righty yielded six runs, only two earned, on eight hits in 6.2 innings. Cenatiempo walked four and struck out three.

Notre Dame threatened to grab an early lead in the top of the first inning. Barnes ripped a two-out single back up the middle and senior Evan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.) coaxed a 10-pitch walk, but Cenatiempo got junior Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.) to ground into a fielder’s choice as Sharpley was forced out at second base to end the inning.

The Irish did not waste their opportunity in the second inning. Senior Ryan Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.) led off the inning with a hit-by-pitch and raced to third base on Doyle’s double that hooked just fair inside the right field line and one-hopped the wall. McConnell followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Connolly to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. After Doyle advanced to third on a wild pitch and Sherry walked, Pollock made it 2-0 with another sacrifice fly, but Paul Karmas dropped the fly ball to allow Pollock to reach. Tate grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Barnes and Sharpley followed with back-to-back RBI singles to push the Irish advantage to 4-0.

Notre Dame had a golden opportunity to blow the game open in the bottom of the fourth inning. Pollock ripped a one-out double (his first career BIG EAST tournament hit) and Tate followed with an infield single to put runners on the corners with one out, but Barnes popped out and Sharpley grounded out to get Cenatiempo off the hook.

The Red Storm did scratch across an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Karmas reached to lead off the frame following Doyle’s error at third base. Tim Morris then singled and Greg Hopkins advanced both runners with a perfectly-executed sacrifice bunt. Joe Panik made the St. John’s deficit 4-1 with an RBI ground out to second, but Johnson evaded any further damage.

St. John’s put together a little two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth inning. Brian Kemp roped a double into the left centerfield gap and Jimmy Parque walked before Karmas came through with an RBI single on a 3-2 pitch to make the score, 4-2. Johnson then walked Morris to load the bases before Johnson’s first balk of the year brought St. John’s within a run, 4-3.

Pollock absolutely crushed a 0-1 fast ball from Cenatiempo with one out in the top of the sixth inning, but unfortunately directly into a 30-40 mph wind gust. The ball drove Karmas all the way to the base of the left field wall, but fell about five feet short of getting out. Tate followed with a two-out single and Barnes then reached on an error by Morris at first, but Cenatiempo danced out of trouble again after getting Sharpley to ground out.

The Irish again put themselves into a scoring position in the seventh. Ashdown opened with a single and moved to second when Kemp bobbled the ball in centerfield. Connolly grounded out to short, advancing Ashdown to third base with one out, but Doyle struck out on three pitches. Notre Dame then benefitted from Gino Matias’ error at short on McConnell’s ground ball which should have ended the inning to make it 5-3.

Cenatiempo was pulled following the error for Nick Luisi, who walked Sherry before Pollock singled to give Notre Dame a 6-3 lead. Luisi then walked Tate to load the bases for Barnes. Steve Forester replaced Luisi and walked Barnes on four straight to give the Irish a 7-3 lead, but Sharpley struck out to end the inning.

Miller retired the first two St. John’s batters of the seventh inning before Parque singled and Karmas hammered a two-run home run into the left field wind to draw the Red Storm within two runs, 7-5. Morris then reached on Sherry’s error at second base and Miller plunked Hopkins to put runners on first and second, but got a ground out to end the inning.

The Irish loaded the bases in the top of the eighth inning for the third time of the game and finally came through with a run. Sherry ripped a sacrifice fly to centerfield to give Notre Dame a three-run cushion, 8-5. Pollock followed with an RBI double to make it 9-5.

The Irish blew the game wide open with five runs in the top of the ninth inning.

Notre Dame plated 14 runs despite stranding a season-high 17. The 17 left on base were the most by the Irish since they left 17 against College of Charleston in the 2006 NCAA Tournament (a game that lasted 16 innings.)

Notre Dame returns to action tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 p.m. against the winner of Louisville and Cincinnati.

— ND —