May 9, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to knock off Pittsburgh, 5-4, in BIG EAST college baseball action from Frank Eck Stadium Friday night. The Irish improves to 33-13-1 overall and 16-6 in the conference, while the Panthers drop to 17-30 and 6-16.
With the Irish trailing, 4-3, two outs and the tying run at third base, senior Brett Lilley (North Canton, Ohio) drilled a 1-2 pitch into the right field gap to plate senior Sean Gaston (Brownsburg, Ind.) and bring Notre Dame even, 4-4. Lilley had gone hitless over his previous 11 at bats.
Sophomore David Mills then hit into what appeared to be a routine pop out to the shortstop, but Danny Lopez dropped the ball, allowing Lilley to score the winning run.
Mills’ made a victor out of, well, himself. The southpaw improved to 1-0 on the season. Mills not only went 3-for-6 with two RBI from the plate, but he retired John Schultz to end the Pittsburgh 10th inning (the only batter he faced). Gaston went 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored.
David Kaye took the loss for the Panthers and dropped to 2-4 on the year. He was charged with two runs, one earned, on two hits in 2.1 innings.
After Pittsburgh tied the game, 1-1, in the top of the sixth inning, the Irish regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gaston led off the inning with his second walk of the game and advanced to second on sophomore Billy Boockford’s (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) sacrifice bunt. After freshman Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) lined out, Lilley struck out, but reached on Pittsburgh relief pitcher Mike Wood’s wild pitch.
Mills followed with an RBI single to give the Irish a 2-1 lead. Sophomore A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) then hit a slow roller to the right of Wood for an infield hit, but Wood’s attempt to get Pollock at first base bounced underneath the legs of Panther first baseman Morgan Kielty and rolled down the right field line. Lilley came around to score from second base to push Notre Dame’s lead to 3-1, but Mills was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.
Irish junior closer Kyle Weiland (Albuquerque, N.M.) wasn’t able to hold the lead. Weiland plunked Chris Warner to open the inning. After Jordan Herr flew out, Weiland drilled Nick Mullins to put the tying runner on base. John Schultz followed with a single to load the bases with one out, but Weiland quickly retired Sean Conley with a strikeout on three pitches. After an infield single brought the Panthers within a run, 3-2, and bases remained loaded, Weiland hit the third batter of the inning to tie the score, 3-3.
After junior David Phelps (Hazelwood, Mo.) worked out of a jam in the top of the third inning, the Irish grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the frame. Gaston led off the frame with a single back up the middle and moved into scoring position on Boockford’s sacrifice bunt. Sherry and Lilley followed with walks to load the bases. Mills then legged out a fielder’s choice to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.
Phelps rebounded from consecutive poor outings with a solid six innings of work. He went 0-1 with an 8.25 earned run average in starts against St. John’s and UConn. Phelps was roughed up for 23 hits and 11 earned runs over those 12.0 innings.
The right-handed hurler allowed just one earned run on three hits, but did not factor in the decision. He fanned five and walked four. Phelps limited the Panthers to no runs on just one hit over the first 5.2 innings, but Morgan Kielty’s bloop RBI single off the glove of a lunging Lilley at shortstop tied the game, 1-1. After a single and walk loaded the bases for Pittsburgh, Phelps got a fielder’s choice to keep the game tied.
Phelps has now gone 5.0 innings or more in 27 of his last 28 career starts.
Notre Dame returns to action Saturday afternoon with the second game of the series. Senior Wade Korpi (Lake Worth, Fla.) will take the mound. The game can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1490 AM and UND.com.
— ND —