David Mills

Mills And Warrender Shine, But Bulls Take Game One, 6-3

March 27, 2010

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TAMPA, Fla.–Senior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) collected a career-high four hits and tossed a pair of scoreless innings from the mound and senior walk-on Bill Warrender (Collegeville, Pa.) went 3-for-4 in his first career start, but the Bulls scored four unanswered runs in their final four at bats to come from behind and take game one of the Saturday doubleheader, 6-3.

Mills has now hit safely in 17 of his 19 games this season; Warrender, on the other hand, had just five at bats in his career (14 appearances) entering the game, but his dynamic first start means it will likely not be his last.

Sophomore Steve Sabatino (Lockport, Ill.) was saddled with the loss for Notre Dame (8-14, 0-2), giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits in 6.0+ innings. The southpaw has now worked at least 5.0 innings in four straight starts and eight of his ten career starts. Sabatino (1-3) punched out four and walked just two, but both proved costly, they each came with two outs and led to a total of four USF runs.

Left-hander Andrew Barbosa (2-1) earned the victory for the Bulls (10-13, 2-0), tossing 6.2 innings of eight-hit, three-run ball (two earned). Joe Cole worked the final 2.1 innings for his first save of the 2010 season after recording two a year ago.

No other player had multiple hits for Notre Dame, which recorded 10 hits in its final 25 at bats after being no-hit on Friday, but senior Ryan Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.) extended his on-base streak to 34 games after being plunked in the first, and freshman Frank Desico (Cleveland, Ohio) and senior Ryne Intlekofer (Moorpark, Calif.) each drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

Head coach Dave Schrage stressed before the season the need for his players to be able to advance runners, and they have certainly responded, laying down 22 sacrifice bunts and notching 17 sacrifice flies in 22 games so far this season; the school records are 69 (2008) and 41 (2002), respectively. Notre Dame has already had six games this season with multiple sacrifice flies–no Irish team has had more than nine such games since at least the 1997 campaign.

For the third straight game and the fifth time in the past seven games, the opposition crossed the plate in the first inning, as two two-out doubles sandwiched around a walk gave the Bulls a 2-0 lead.

The Irish would slowly get the offense going and eventually tie the game, 2-2, thanks in part to Warrender’s first career base hit. Mills’ single in the third snapped Notre Dame’s 0-for-37 string, and in the fourth, a walk to Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) and a bunt single from Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) put two runners on with one out. Warrender then stepped to the dish and laced a double down the left field line to bring home Martin, and Desico followed with a sacrifice fly to knot the score.

Notre Dame overcame a baserunning error in the fourth to take the lead by capitalizing on a USF fielding error. Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) led off with a double to left, but was subsequently caught between second and third for the first out when Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) squared around to bunt. Unfazed, Sherry knocked a single through the left side and hustled into third with a headfirst slide when Mills followed with a bloop single to left and the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Intlekofer then drove a 1-2 offering from Barbosa to right for a sacrifice fly, putting the Irish up 3-2.

Some unhappiness over hard slides led to tempers erupting in the Irish fourth, as a hard slide from McConnell into third on the aforementioned pickoff prompted the ejection of reserve infielder Sean Buckley from the Bulls’ dugout and some words from USF skipper Lelo Prado.

The lead would be short lived for the Irish, however, as a two-out free pass came back to haunt Sabatino again. After cruising through the second, third, and fourth innings, Sabatino walked Ryan Lockwood on four straight with two down in the fifth, and then Jonathan Koscso doubled to tie the game and scampered home on a base hit to right by Sam Mende (both hits on two-strike pitches), giving the Bulls the lead for good at 4-3.

After a Todd Brazeal double in the sixth extended the USF lead to 5-3, Notre Dame put together a two-on, two-out threat in the next half-inning to chase Barbosa from the game, but his replacement, Cole, needed just two pitches to retire Connolly and end the frame.

USF plated the final run of the contest in the seventh despite some excellent situational pitching by Mills. Mills relieved Sabatino with runners on first and second and nobody out in the inning, and after a sacrifice advanced both runners, Mills got Stephen Hunt to pop out, walked Eric Sim intentionally to fill the bases, and then induced a ground ball to second base off the bat of Junior Carlin. Desico bobbled the ball, however, allowing Carlin to reach safely and Lockwood to score the unearned run.

Game two of the twinbill will begin at approximately 7:00 p.m, with Eric Maust (0-1, 4.63) getting the nod for Notre Dame. He will face senior lefty Teddy Kaufman (3-1, 3.54) of USF.

— ND —