April 27, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame sophomore Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.) tossed 7.2 strong innings to help the 24th-ranked Irish salvage the final game of their three-game series with St. John’s, 8-4, Sunday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium. With the victory, Notre Dame improves to 28-12-1 overall and 13-5 in the conference, while the Red Storm drops to 31-10 and 13-5. The Irish move into a first-place tie with St. John’s for first place in the league standings. Cincinnati lost again on Sunday and sits one full game behind both Notre Dame and the Red Storm.
Maust was almost untouchable. The right-handed hurler kept St. John’s off the scoreboard before tiring in the eighth inning. Maust retired the leadoff batter in every inning, but the eighth and allowed just four hits over the first seven innings.
Despite the troubles in the eight, Maust put together his fourth consecutive quality start (worked at least 7.0 innings in each of his last four starts). The right-handed hurler was charged with four earned runs on seven hits. He fanned four and walked four. All four of the runs came in the eighth inning and two came into score after he departed. Maust improved to 5-1 on the season and now leads the BIG EAST with five wins in conference games.
Maust did dance out of trouble just once on the afternoon in the top of the sixth inning. After quickly retiring the first two of the frame, he issued back-to-back walks before Tim Morris reached on a pinch-hit infield single to load the bases. Chris Anninos then hammered a 1-2 pitch from Maust into the right centerfield gap that looked as though it might clear the bases and bring the Red Storm within a pair of runs, 5-3, but Irish centerfielder A.J. Pollock raced down the fly ball and made a great basket catch just shy of the warning track to end the inning.
The Irish would add two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and another tally in the bottom of the seventh to put the game out of reach, 8-0.
Senior Brett Lilley (North Canton, Ohio), sophomore David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.), sophomore A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) and junior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) each posted multi-hit games. The quartet combined to go 8-for-15 on the day with six runs scored and two RBI. Senior Sean Gaston (Brownsburg, Ind.) and sophomore Billy Boockford (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) each chipped in two RBI as well. Senior Ross Brezovsky (Naples, Fla.) walked four times (the most by an Irish player since 2006) and pushed his career-best hitting streak to 21 games, tying Craig Cooper (2006) and Mike Armhein (1997) for the longest hitting streak since 1995.
Mills also set a new single-season record with his 16th sacrifice bunt. Mills bested Lilley’s previous mark of 15 set during the 2006 season.
Senior Tony Langford (Fort Worth, Texas) tossed 1.1 scoreless innings of relief. The righty did not allow a hit and extended his scoreless streak to 13.0 innings. Langford lowered his season earned-run average to 1.20.
Notre Dame took the game’s first lead for the first time all series. Lilley led off the game with a single (entered the at-bat 0-for-8 in the series) and moved into scoring position on Mills’ single-season school record 16th sacrifice bunt of the year. After Pollock and junior Evan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.) each worked the count and drew walks, Barnes belted a 3-2 offering from St. John’s starter Jared Yecker that sent Red Storm centerfielder Scott Ferrara up against wall, missing on a grand slam by a couple feet. Barnes would settle for the sacrifice fly as Lilley coasted home. Brezovsky drew the third walk of the inning to load the bases again, but Yecker would strikeout Gaston to limit the damage to just one run (despite throwing 42 pitches in the inning).
St. John’s threatened in the top of the second inning after putting a pair of runners on base following a walk and hit-by-pitch, but Maust got Carlos Del Rosario to ground into a highlight film type double play. Barnes made a diving stab to snare the ground ball and then flipped the ball out of his glove to Lilley, who threw onto first to end the inning.
After Maust induced another ground ball double play to end the third, the Irish awoke with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning. Pollock legged out a one-out infield single and Sharpley followed with a single. Barnes then hit a hard grounder that bounced off the cut of the infield grass and bounded over Red Strom second baseman Gino Matias’ head for an RBI single. After Brezovsky walked for the second time of the afternoon, Gaston singled home Sharpley to make the Irish lead, 3-0. Matt Tosoni relieved Yecker and promptly fanned Boockford and Sherry as the Irish left the bases loaded for the second time on the afternoon.
Boockford pushed the Notre Dame advantage to 5-0 following his clutch two out, two run double off Tosoni in the fifth.
The five-run cushion would be plenty for Maust.
Yecker (3-1) was dealt the loss for the Red Storm. He was roughed up for three earned runs on five hits in 2.1 innings. Yecker was also victimized by five walks.
Notre Dame returns to action on Tuesday and Wednesday with a two-game non-conference series against Mississippi Valley State. First-pitch for each contest is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Both games can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1490 AM and UND.com.