May 12, 2009
JOLIET, Ill. – The Notre Dame cardiac pack did it again on Tuesday night, falling behind 6-1 after five innings only to race past Illinois State, 14-8, in college baseball action from Silver Cross Field. The Irish improve to 31-20 overall, while the Redbirds drop to 21-21.
Junior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) improved to 2-1 on the year. The southpaw struck out a career-best four and allowed two earned runs on three hits in 3.0 innings of work.
Junior Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.) tied his career-high with three hits, including his first home run of the season and four runs scored. Sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) went 2-for-5 with four RBI and a three-run home run. Junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) went 2-for-6 with a RBI triple and two runs scored. Senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) and senior Ryan Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.) each drove in a pair. Senior Evan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.) also added a mammoth solo home run.
Head coach Dave Schrage brought the Irish dugout together for an impromptu team meeting before the top of the sixth inning and, safe to say, the Irish got the message. Pollock opened with an infield single, promptly stole second and coasted home on sophomore Golden Tate’s (Hendersonville, Tenn.) RBI triple. Tate roped a ball that two-hopped the wall in left, but Tate’s incredible speed turned the double into triple.
The three-bagger ended the day for Illinois State starting pitcher Kenny Long.
Quinn Ewert came out of the pen and did not fool anyone. Barnes made the Irish deficit 6-3 with an RBI ground out. Sharpley then absolutely crushed his fourth home run of the season, well over the left centerfield wall, to make it 6-4. The first baseman is now 5-for-10 pinch hitting this season with a pair of home runs and five RBI. In fact, Sharpley has a home run and four RBI in his last five pinch hit opportunities.
Ashdown then singled back up the middle and Ewert plunked Connolly before junior Ryne Intlekofer (Moorpark, Calif.) walked to load the bases with one out for McConnell. The catcher then greeted the Redbirds third pitcher of the inning, Nelson, with a single to left field to make it 6-5. Nelson then got sophomore Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) to pop out before uncorking a wild pitch that allowed Connolly to score and tie the game, 6-6. With two more runners in scoring position with two outs, Nelson got Pollock to pop out to end the inning.
Mills then retired the first two Redbirds of the sixth inning before Tyler McNeely doubled just inside the right field line. Mike Stalowy followed with his third extra-base hit of the night and second double to give Illinois State a 7-6 lead.
The lead did not last long. The Irish plated three runs in the top of the seventh inning to grab a 9-7 lead, including two on Connolly’s clutch two-run double. Intlekofer drove in the other run with an RBI ground out to second base.
Notre Dame kept the pressure on the Illinois State bullpen with two more insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning to push its lead to four runs, 11-7. Pollock tripled in Sherry and Barnes plated Pollock with a sacrifice fly.
McConnell erased all doubt of an Irish victory with a three-run home run off the scoreboard in left field. The blast was McConnell’s third of the campaign.
The Redbirds grabbed a 1-0 lead in the home half of the first inning, but Notre Dame quickly answered in the top of the second inning. Ashdown hammered Long’s first offering of the at bat deep over the left centerfield wall to even the score, 1-1. The bomb was Ashdown’s first of the season and second career home run.
Notre Dame starting pitcher Joe Spano (Verona, N.J.) quickly retired the first two Redbirds in the second inning before yielding a double and walk, but got McNeeley to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
The rookie southpaw left the game after two innings working on a pitch count. Spano surrendered an earned run on three hits. He struck out two and walked two.
Junior Steven Mazur (Round Rock, Texas) replaced Spano and quickly ran into trouble. Stalowy greeted the right-hander with a leadoff double and Ryan Court followed with a walk before Anthony Ruffalo pulled a seeing-eye single through the right side to give Illinois State a 2-1 advantage. Court scampered to third base to put runners on the corner with no outs. Gabe Demarco then made it 3-1 with an RBI ground out and Evan Kohli pushed the Redbirds lead to 4-1 with an RBI double over the head of Tate in left field. Matt Mirabal picked up the Illinois State’s third double of the inning to drive in Kohli and give ISU a 5-1 lead.
Mazur was roughed up in his 1.0 inning of work. He allowed four earned runs on four hits. Mazur walked one and did not register a strikeout.
Stalowy smacked his third home run of the season in the bottom of the fourth inning to give the Redbirds a 6-1 lead.
Long continued to cruise. After Ashdown’s home run, the southpaw retired 10 of the next 13 and only allowed Scioscia’s single in the third. Long did issue a leadoff walk to Mendiola in the fifth inning, but he got McConnell to pop out and induced a double play ground out off the bat of Sherry.
Mills settled down in his second inning of work after surrendering the solo home run in the fourth. The lefty sent down Illinois State in order, including a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Irish returns to action on Thursday night with the series opener at BIG EAST rival St. John’s. Notre Dame stands in fifth place heading into the final weekend of the regular season and needs just one victory over the Red Storm to secure a spot in the 2009 BIG EAST Tournament.