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Ninth-Inning Rally Pushes Baseball Past Western Michigan, 5-4

April 9, 2002

Box Score

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Javier Sanchez and Matt Bok drove in the tying and winning runs with one out in the bottom of the ninth while the Notre Dame bullpen continued its recent dominance, as the Irish baseball team rallied to defeat visiting Western Michigan, 5-4, in Tuesday-night action at Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame (18-11) – winners of nine of its last 10 games – scored the game’s first run before seeing Western Michigan (9-12) plate four runs in the third, despite managing just two solid hits in the inning.

Senior Drew Duff and junior Ryan Kalita combined to hold WMU in check over the final 6 1/3 innings, with the pair combining for seven strikeouts while allowing just five hits and one walk.

Notre Dame’s bullpen – after a rocky start to the season – now has allowed just two earned runs in the last 11 games, good for an 0.48 ERA during that stretch of nearly 38 innings (including no runs allowed in the last six games, covering 19 innings of relief work). Opponents are batting just .182 versus the Irish bullpen during that 11-game span.

Notre Dame’s winning rally included three straight one-out hits, with each batter facing two strikes. Andrew Bushey got things going by slicing a 2-2 single into left field and moving up on a wild pitch from righthanded closer Tyler Grinnell (1-2), who set down the Irish in the 9th inning of last season’s meeting to save WMU’s 7-6 win over ND.

Sanchez – who recently supplied the winning two-run double in a 10-inning game at West Virginia – then worked to his own 2-2 count before driving an RBI double that carried over the head of leftfielder Andy Roy and glanced high off the wall. Grinnell – who entered the game with a 2.92 ERA and 20 Ks in 12 innings – jumped ahead in the count versus the lefthanded-hitting Bok but the senior DH sent a looper that skipped inside the leftfield line, with Sanchez scurrying home for the game-winning run (Bok also had the go-ahead hit in the 7th inning of Sunday 5-2 win over St. John’s).

The Irish overcame an 0-for-15 night from the No. 2-5 batters, with leadoff man Steve Stanley batting 2-for-4 to raise his season average to .449. The speedy senior centerfielder has hits in 27 of 29 games this season and has struck out just three times in 118 at-bats.

Junior leftfielder Brian Stavisky made his return to the lineup, after missing the previous nine games due to injury. The lefthanded slugger had suffered two broken bones on the left side of his face when he was hit by a pitch early in the March 28 doubleheader at West Virginia.

Stavisky’s return to the lineup included a specially-outfitted helmet with a football-style faceguard, similar to those work by quarterbacks.

The game marked just the third time all season that Notre Dame’s three preseason All-Americans – Stanley, Stavisky and Sollmann – have started the same game, with the others coming in the season opener vs. Missouri (when Sollmann left in the 4th inning due to his quad injury) and in the March 13 game vs. Creighton.

Kalita (1-0) – whose brother Tim is the No. 1 starter for the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens – picked up his biggest win in a Notre Dame uniform, after facing just 11 batters over the final three innings (with three Ks and a pair of hits allowed).

Duff entered the game in the third, in relief of freshman Martin Vergara, and faced just 14 batters in his 3 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts, three hits and one walk allowed. The veteran righthander inherited a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the third but induced Adam Rosales into a first-pitch groundout back to the mound.

Stanley’s leadoff single, a passed ball and groundouts from Steve Sollmann and Stavisky gave the Irish the early 1-0 lead vs. righthander Josh Clark but WMU went ahead 4-1 in the third, thanks to a solid leadoff single from Rosales, four walks, a squib-hit that eluded the leftside infielders, an RBI groundout and Roy’s RBI single to right-center.

Singles from Joe Thaman and Stanley helped the Irish answer with a run in the bottom of the third while Roy’s dropped fly ball in left field set up Bushey’s sacrifice fly in the fourth, cutting WMU’s lead to 4-3.

Three straight lefthanders then kept the Irish off the scoreboard in the 5th-8th innings (with just one hit and two walks) before Bushey’s single ignited the 9th-inning rally.

Duff sliced his season ERA to 1.50, tops on the Irish staff among pitchers with 10-plus innings.

Western Michigan 0-0-4 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 4 8 4

Notre Dame 1-0-1 1-0-0 0-0-2 – 5 8 0

Josh Clark, Shawn Morrison (5), Brad Mumma (7), Pat Misch (8), Tyler Grinnell (9, L, 1-2) and Greg Graham.

Martin Vergara, Drew Duff (3), Ryan Kalita (7, W, 1-0) and Paul O’Toole.

Double: Javier Sanchez (ND)