March 6, 2008
SANTALUCES, Fla. – Lehigh used a pair of home runs and a solid pitching performance from Rob Russell to edge Notre Dame, 4-2, in college baseball action from the Papa John’s Palm Beach Challenge Thursday morning. The Irish drop to 4-4 on the year, while the Mountain Hawks improve to 5-6.
Russell (1-0) limited Notre Dame to just two earned runs on four hits over 6.2 innings of work. The right-handed hurler struck out one and walked two. Lehigh closer Jordan Warncke came in and closed the door for the Mountain Hawks. He tossed 2.1 scoreless innings of relief for his second save of the season.
The Irish had their opportunities on the afternoon, despite registering just six hits in the game. Notre Dame was victimized by three double play ground outs.
Lehigh grabbed a 1-0 following a two-out RBI single from Matt Laychur in the second inning and extended the lead to 3-0 following a two-run blast off the bat of Joe Ercolano in the third.
Notre Dame finally broke through with a pair of runs in bottom of the seventh inning. Junior third baseman Evan Sharpley opened the frame with a solo home run – his second of the season. After senior catcher Sean Gaston walked, freshman centerfielder Golden Tate laid down a great bunt and appeared to have beaten it out for a single, but was called out at first base. Gaston still moved into scoring position and raced around to score on freshman designated hitter David Casey’s RBI single.
Notre Dame had a golden opportunity to take the lead in its half of the eighth inning. Senior shortstop Brett Lilley led off the inning with a single. Sophomore right fielder A.J. Pollock’s then reached base on a fielder’s choice and promptly stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. Sharpley was then intentionally walked and Gaston followed with another walk to load the bases, but pinch hitter Jeremy Barnes flied out to end the threat.
The Mountain Hawks added a huge insurance run with a solo home run from Brendan McGaheran to give Lehigh a 4-2 lead. The blast was the 12th allowed by the Notre Dame pitching staff already this season.
Freshman Ryan Sharpley (0-1) started for the Irish and allowed three runs, all earned, in 3.0 innings in defeat. He struckout three and walked two. Sophomore Eric Maust tossed 5.2 innings of relief and limited the Mountain Hawks to just one run on five hits. He fanned six and walked one. Sophomore David Mills retired the only batter he faced.
Notre Dame returns to action on Friday against Texas A&M Corpus Christi (3:00 p.m. CT) at the Whataburger Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas. The game can heard live on ESPN Radio 1490 AM and UND.com.
— ND —