Senior Ryan Connolly.

Irish Rally From 6-0 Deficit To Edge USF, 7-6, To Secure Series Triumph

May 9, 2009

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On the eve of Notre Dame’s senior day, it was the senior quartet of Ryan Connolly, Evan Sharpley, Jeremy Barnes and most noticeably Sam Elam that help the Irish rally from a 6-0 deficit and secure a thrilling 7-6 victory over USF Saturday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium. Barnes drew a bases loaded, game winning walk in the bottom of the ninth inning. Notre Dame improves to 29-19 overall and 13-10, while the Bulls drop to 30-19 and 17-6.

With the Irish trailing 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.) reached to lead off the inning when USF starting pitcher Derrick Stultz plunked him on a 3-2 pitch. Connolly then scampered to second base on a wild pitch. After Stultz retired sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.), Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.) pinch hit for sophomore Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) and drew a walk.

The Bulls went to the bullpen and junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) greeted Joe Cole with a RBI single back up the middle to tie the score, 6-6. USF then elected to intentionally walk sophomore Golden Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.) to load the bases with one out for Barnes (Garland, Texas). Cole proceeded to walk Barnes on four straight pitches.

Elam (Mesquite, Texas) picked up the win in relief. The southpaw (1-1) tossed 4.2 scoreless innings of dominant relief to register his first career victory. Elam yielded just two hits, one of which did not even leave the infield. He struck out four and walked four. Elam kept the Bulls quiet over the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth inning. He has now fanned 32 batters in 23.1 innings of work this season.

Stultz (5-3), who had not allowed more than five runs in any start this season, allowed seven earned runs on six hits in 8.1 innings of work. He struck out five and walked three.

Barnes went 2-for-3 with a solo home run and four RBI, while Pollock went 2-for-5 with a run scored and three RBI. McConnell also added two hits for Notre Dame.

Barnes brought the Irish within a run, 6-5, following his team-best ninth home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning. He hammered Stultz’s first offering of the at-bat over the right field wall. The blast was Barnes’ 20th career long ball.

Elam did allow a leadoff single from Carlin in the top of the ninth, but the senior induced a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play. Elam then got a pop out to end the Bulls’ ninth.

After being held scoreless on just one hit over the first four innings, it took a seeming meaningless one-out hit batter from Stultz to start the fifth-inning rally. Connolly, who provided a spark yesterday with a solo home run and two runs scored, reached on the HBP and moved to second on McConnell’s single. After Sherry walked to load the bases with one out, Pollock brought Notre Dame within 6-2 following a two-run single. Tate then re-loaded the bases following an error. Barnes brought the Irish even closer with the second two-run single of the inning to make it 6-4. Tate was thrown out at third and Casey grounded out to end the inning.

USF jumped on Irish starting pitcher Brian Dupra right out of the gate. Ryan Lockwood singled up the middle and Jonathan Koscso followed with a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. Stephen Hunt then pulled a ground ball to the right side to make it 1-0 Bulls. Todd Brazeal extended the lead to 2-0 with a single just past a diving Sherry at second base, but Dupra limited the damage to just the two runs despite surrendering three hits.

USF continued to have success off Dupra in the top of the second inning. Trey Manz and Sam Mende opened the inning with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice bunt moved up both runners, Lockwood added an RBI ground out to give USF a 3-0 lead.

Dupra seemed to settle down in the third inning, retiring the first two USF batters of inning, but Carlin lined a 0-1 offering from Dupra just past Barnes at shortstop. Chris Rey and Manz followed with singles to extend the Bulls’ lead to 4-0. Manz was gunned down by junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) trying to stretch his single into a double.

Stultz continued to cruise over the first three innings. The righty worked around a one-out double by Tate in the top of the first inning. In fact, Stultz got both Barnes and sophomore David Casey (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) with Tate at third base and just one out. He then proceeded to retire the next eight Notre Dame hitters.

USF plated another run in the top of the fourth to grab a 5-0 lead thanks to three Irish errors.

Stultz did issue a one-out walk to Barnes, but got Casey to fly out and Mills to ground out to end the inning. He needed just 38 pitches over the first four scoreless innings.

In the fifth, Carlin legged out an infield single with one out and Rey followed with an RBI double off the center field wall. The hit ended the day for Dupra. The righty was roughed up for six runs, five earned, on 11 hits. Dupra struck out four and did not issue a walk.

Elam came on and retired a pair of Bulls in the fifth inning to keep the Irish deficit at 6-0.

USF would not score the rest of the way.

The Irish and Bulls return to action tomorrow afternoon with the third and final game of the series. Junior Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.) will take the hill for Notre Dame. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m.

— ND —