March 25, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – South Florida scored seven times in the final two innings to break open a 2-1 game, giving the Bulls a 9-1 victory over homestanding Notre Dame in Sunday’s BIG EAST series finale at Eck Stadium. The Irish had plenty of chances to fashion their own big innings but the hosts ultimately left 14 runners on base, including multiple runners stranded in six straight innings.
Notre Dame (11-11, 1-2 BIG EAST) – which hit 5-for-20 with runners on base but just 1-for-12 with men in scoring position – received another solid start from Dan Kapala (0-2), but the senior righthander again was received minimal run support and was tagged for two early unearned runs. Kapala continues to operate under a pitch count (as he returns to form following 2006 shoulder surgery) and thus logged only 5.0 innings, with his 69-pitch outing including no earned runs, four hits, a walk and three strikeouts. The veteran pitcher amazingly has yet to pick up a winning decision in his six appearances (three of them starts), despite now owning a 1.45 ERA and a lowly .239 opponent batting average (plus a 4-to-1 K-to-walk ratio, at 12/3, and just 16 hits allowed in 18.2 IP).
USF junior righthander Chris Delaney improved to 5-0, allowing the lone run while working around various jams due to 11 hits and a pair of walks allowed (with 2 Ks). Freshman righthander Shawn Sandford came on to serve up a key 7th-inning flyout with the bases loaded and closed the game out for his sixth save of the season (2 H, 3 Ks).
Notre Dame junior shortstop Brett Lilley (3-for-5) extended his hitting streak to six games while raising his team-best batting average to .395. The Irish leadoff batter opened the day for the Irish offense by going the other way on a 1-0 pitch from Delaney, taking advantage of a strong wind to send the ball down the leftfield line and over the fence for his first home run of the season and third of his career (the previous two came in a 2006 lateseason game at Seton Hall).
The Irish bullpen allowed 9-of-10 inherited runners to score in Saturday’s 13-10 loss and that trend continued in the series finale, as 4-of-4 inherited USF runners came around to score. Notre Dame’s starting pitchers have combined for a solid 3.23 season ERA but the bullpen now owns a 4.09 ERA, in addition to allowing more than half of the inherited runners to score this season (22 of 42; 54%).
The final two games of the series were defined by big innings, as USF scored 3-6 runs in an inning twice in both games. The ND and USF offenses both had 20 scoreless innings in the series but the six innings in which the Irish scored included four with a single run (plus a pair of 4-inning frames), whereas the Bulls had 6- and 5-run innings to clinch game-2 before pushing across four in the 8th and three in the 9th to snatch away Sunday’s tight game.
The Irish left runners on base in every inning from the 2nd-8th, including two or more in six straight (all but the 2nd). Notre Dame finished with a 13-9 edge in hits – dropping the Irish to 10-3 this season when outhitting the opponent (ND also had the hit edge in the game-2 loss) – but the visitors made the most of their four leadoff baserunners by batting 7-for-16 with runners on and 4-for-10 with them in scoring position.
USF (18-8,4-2 BIG EAST) became just the second ND opponent to score multiple 1st-inning runs this season, with a leadoff walk by Walter Diaz setting the table (he also walked four times in game-2). An ensuing error, sac. bunt, wild pitch and RBI groundout gave the Bulls a pair of unearned runs without the benefit of a single hit.
Singles by A.J. Pollock and Matt Weglarz, with a Mike Dury walk in between, loaded the bases for the Irish with one out in the 7th and the score stil 2-1. But James Rowe came on to strike out Ross Brezovsky in the lefty-lefty matchup. Sanford then was summoned to face the righthanded Jeremy Barnes and induced a popup to shallow left field to end the late threat.
Notre Dame had another chance in the 8th, after singles by Bradyden Ashdown and Lilley, but Sanford picked up a strikeout and groundout to send the game to the 9th with a 6-1 lead.
Notes – the early error was ND’s only one of the game, marking the ninth times this season the Irish have made 0-1 errors … Pollock’s 2-for-5 game raised the freshman third baseman’s average to .375 … Lilley – who had hit a triple leading off the game for the Irish on Saturday – now owns a .487 leadoff on-base pct. for the season (his overall OB pct. is an even more impressive .495) and he now has scored 26 runs in 22 games played … Dury (1-for-4) now is riding a 5-game hitting streak … the Irish had won their previous six games this season when hitting a home run … ND is only 2-7 when the opponent scores first this season and has gone just 6-4 when scoring in the 1st inning.
South Florida (18-8,4-2 BIG EAST) 2-0-0 0-0-0 0-4-3 – 9 9 1
Notre Dame (11-11, 1-2 BIG EAST) 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 1 13 1
Home Run: Brett Lilley, ND (solo in 1st; 1st of season/3rd of career)
Double: Nick Cardieri (USF)