March 5, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Notre Dame’s Jeff Manship struck out a career-best 10 batters in six strong innings but the junior righthander did not factor into the decision, as Arizona pulled out a 2-0 win in 10 innings during final-day Metrodome baseball action at the Dairy Queen Classic.
Notre Dame (2-5), which suffered consecutive shutout losses for the first time since 1987, outhit Arizona 10 to 4 but the Irish batted just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-21 with RBI chances in the three-game tournament.
Arizona (10-5) fashioned the winning rally when freshman righthander Kyle Weiland (0-2) hit Colt Sedbrook with a 1-1 pitch and Brad Boyer drove a 2-2 pitch into the right-center gap for an RBI triple. Jason Donald added a sacrifice fly moments later for the 2-0 cushion.
The Irish nearly answered in the bottom of the 10th, with the tournament time-limit in effect and the game set to end at the end of the 10th regardless of the score. Singles by Greg Lopez and Danny Dressman preceded a two-out error that loaded the bases, but ace reliever Mark Melancon rolled up a game-ending groundout to the left side.
Notre Dame stranded 10 runners while seeing another thrown out at the plate and two others erased on stolen-base attempts.
Manship faced just 23 batters in his six innings of work, allowing three hits and two walks while becoming the first Notre Dame pitcher with a double-digit strikeout game since Tom Thornton’s 12 strikeouts versus Kent State in a 2004 NCAA elimination game. Manship allowed just one runner to reach third base (in the first inning) while locating 65% of his pitches (59 of 91) for strikes.
After missing his freshman season due to injury and being limited to just 24 innings in 2005, Manship now is off to an impressive start in 2006 – with a 1.64 ERA, 18 strikeouts, just four walks and five hits allowed in 11 innings (with two runs allowed and a .135 opponent batting average).
Junior lefthander Brad Mills matched Manship with his own strong start, striking out eight in 5.1 innings with five hits allowed and no walks.
Melancon (2-1) – one of the nation’s top closers and rated by Baseball America as college baseball’s No. 14 overall pro prospect – picked up the win, as the junior righthander allowed five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in his 4.2 innings of work.
The game nearly ended as the first scoreless tie in the 114-year history of Notre Dame baseball. The program’s all-time record includes 18 ties, among them a 1-1 game at Lafayette in 1967.
The Irish coped with the absence of two position starters – senior first baseman Craig Cooper and junior catcher Sean Gaston – while also continuing to adjust the pitching staff minus junior Dan Kapala and sophomore Tony Langford, who both were lost before the first game to season-ending injuries (each was expected to play a key role on the 2006 staff).
The early moments saw Donald stroke a one-out triple to the right-center gap but Arizona failed to bring him home for the first-inning run, as Lopez made a diving stop from the drawn-in infield and collected a more routine groundball moments later to end the threat.
The Irish then nearly scored their second first-inning run of the season, after sophomore third baseman Brett Lilley went the other way for a full-count single through the left side, moved up on Dressman’s sacrifice bunt and gunned for the plate when Barnes hit his own opposite-field single into right field. The ball was hit sharply and the rightfielder John Gaston made a strong throw to the plate, with catcher Conrad Schmidt making the tag on the sliding Lilley.
Notre Dame had another chance in the second after Brezovsky’s one-out, opposite-field single into left and a wild pitch – but Mills recorded a groundout and strikeout to keep the score 0-0.
Sedbrook followed with a leadoff single in the third before Manship answered with a flyout and a pair of strikeouts.
The Irish created another opportunity in the fourth after senior centerfielder Alex Nettey’s leadoff single to left and a stolen base. Barnes then reached on an infield single to the left side, Mills notched a pair of strikeouts and the Irish pulled off another steal before the inning’s third strikeout left the go-ahead run on third.
Donald led off the sixth with an infield single to the left side but Manship rolled up a double play to quickly halt the threat. Moments later, Nettey was hit by a one-out pitch and stole second, bringing Melancon out of the bullpen, Nettey then was thrown out trying to steal third, just seconds before Barnes pulled a single into left field (he also then was thrown out on a stolen-base attempt).
Brezovsky had a one-out single to center in the seventh and advanced when Lopez sliced a single into left-center – but Melancon induced the rally-ending double play.
Weiland hit the leadoff batter Sedbrook in the bottom of the eighth and the runner moved up on a sac. bunt – but the rookie pitcher served up a pair of flyouts, separated by an intentional walk, to keep Arizona off the board.
The junior rightfielder Dressman coaxed a one-out walk in the eighth but Melancon responded with two strikeouts to maintain the scoreless game.
Arizona had another prime chance in the ninth, after a leadoff walk and groundout put pinch-runner Hunter Pace on second base. Gaston then drew a walk and Weiland struck out T.J. Steele before senior catcher Cody Rizzo gunned out Pace trying to take third on a ball in the dirt.
Notre Dame and Arizona now have split four games spanning the past four seasons, including a pair of close games in 2004 (a 4-2 ND win in Round Rock, Texas, and Arizona’s 7-6 win in the title game at the NC AA South Bend Regional).
The Irish also played to extra innings in their previous “getaway game” at the annual Metrodome tournament, winning that 2003 game in the 13th inning versus Wake Forest (2-1).
Arizona (10-4) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 2 – 2 4 1
Notre Dame (2-5) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 – 0 10 1
Triples: Jason Donald (AZ), Brad Boyer (AZ).