May 6, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Brian Halford bounced back from allowing four early runs while his teammates chipped away before taking the lead with an unearned run in the 8th, as Louisville edged 8th-ranked Notre Dame, 5-4, in Saturday’s BIG EAST baseball action at Eck Stadium. The loss in the first for Notre Dame in BIG EAST action since the conference opener on March 25, ending an 18-game stretch that had matched the 2001 Irish squad (18-0-0) for the longest unbeaten streaks in the 22-year history of BIG EAST baseball.
Sean Gaston’s bases-clearing double capped a big first inning for Notre Dame (37-10-1, 17-2-1), which suffered just its third loss at home this season (21-3). The Irish later had a bases-loaded chance in the 4th inning and had the tying run on third with one out in the 8th, but Louisville (20-28, 10-10 BIG EAST) escaped both jams without allowing any more runs.
Junior righthander Jeff Samardzija did not factor into the decision, after leaving in the 7th with the potential tying run on base. The two-sport star allowed four runs on eighth hits and two walks, with five strikeouts in his 98-pitch outing.
Halford (4-3) also was touched for four runs in his 7.0 innings, allowing eight hits and a pair of walks with one strikeout. Fellow senior righthander Griffin Bailey then picked up his third save of the season, striking out three of his seven batters faced with one hit allowed.
Gaston (2-for-4) and senior first baseman Craig Cooper (2-for-5, R) were the only Notre Dame players to register multiple hits, as the Irish failed to reach double-digit hits for just the sixth time in the past 26 games.
Cooper opened the game with a single to center field and was granted two more bases when the shortstop tried to pick him off overrunning the first-base bag (the throw sailed into the dugout). Brett Lilley’s hustle then produced an infield single to the right side and Danny Dressman slapped the next pitch through the right side for an RBI single. Ross Brezovsky added a one-out walk and a groundball forced out Cooper at the plate – before Gaston sliced an 0-1 pitch deep into the left-center gap for an opposite-field double and the 4-0 lead.
An RBI double from Isaiah Howes helped Louisville plate two runs in the second and the visitors sliced the lead to 4-3 in the next inning, on an RBI double off the bat of Logan Johnson.
The Notre Dame pitching staff had averaged just 3.80 walks per 9.0 innings all season but leadoff walks proved costly in the 7th and 8th innings, with both runners coming across to score. A walk by Nick Haley and a single through the right side by Chris Cates ended the day for Samardzija, with the tying run them coming home when junior lefthander Mike Dury induced a double-play groundout off the bat of Johnson.
Pete Rodriguez walked on four pitches versus junior righthander Jess Stewart (4-2) to start the game’s decisive sequence. Howes then doubled to right and the Irish summoned closer Kyle Weiland with the game on the line. Notre Dame appeared to have the first out in hand but leftfielder Matt Bransfield bobbled the shallow flyout (with shortstop Greg Lopez playing in on the play), as Rodriguez scored on the error for an unearned run.
Unearned runs now have played a key role in six of the 10 Notre Dame losses this season, with the team’s losses this season also now including three by one-run and three by two-run margins.
Bransfield saw his career-best 12-game hitting streak come to an end while Jeremy Barnes came one game shy of becoming the fifth Notre Dame player with a double-digit hit streak this season (the 1997 ND team remains the only squad in the Paul Mainieri era with five different players who have posted double-digit hit streaks).
Louisville (20-28, 10-10 BIG EAST) 0-2-1 0-0-0 1-1-0 – 5 11 1
#8 Notre Dame (37-10-1, 17-2-1) 4-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 4 9 1
Triple: Isaiah Howes (LOU)
Doubles: Ross Brezovsky (ND), Gaston (ND), Logan Johnson (LOU), Alfonso (LOU), Howes 2 (LOU)