April 21, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A record-setting crowd of nearly 4,000 fans was on hand Saturday to see the Notre Dame baseball team turn in one of its top offensive performances ever at Eck Stadium, as the Irish pounded out 16 hits – including a season-high four home runs – en route to posting the team’s fifth straight win, 17-6 over West Virginia. Freshman third baseman A.J. Pollock led the way for an efficient offense that scored nearly twice as many runs as it left stranded (9), with Pollock having a hand in nearly half of his team’s runs while reaching base in all six of his plate appearances (3-for-3, 3 walks).
Notre Dame (21-17, 6-7 BIG EAST) won for the eighth time in the past nine games, with sophomore righthander Kyle Weiland picking up the win to improve to 4-0 for the season. Four different Irish players combined to hit for the “team cycle” of home runs, as Mike Dury homered in the 2nd inning with one aboard and Pollock followed moments later with a three-run shot before Matt Weglarz connected for a 3rd-inning grand slam and Jeremy Barnes led off the 6th with a solo blast.
The Irish put up three “big innings” (5-plus runs) on the scoreboard by the middle of the game, marking the first time since the 2002 season that Notre Dame has scored five or more runs in three different innings of the same game. Dury and Pollock’s home runs accounted for five of the six runs in the bottom of the 2nd and Weglarz’s grand slam highlighted the five ND runs in the 3rd, followed by another 5-run inning from the hosts in the 6th.
The 17 runs tie for the sixth-most ever by Notre Dame at Eck Stadium, in the stadium’s 14-year history. Saturday’s run production matched the highest-scoring game for the Irish at Eck Stadium in the past five seasons, dating back to the 25-1 win over South Alabama in the 2002 NCAA South Bend Regional (ND also posted a 17-9 win over Western Michigan earlier the season). The last time the Irish scored more runs at Eck Stadium in a BIG EAST game was in the wild 22-18 loss to Pittsburgh, on May 7, 2000.
Notre Dame put 5-of-8 leadoff batters on base while batting 11-for-24 with runners aboard and 7-for-20 with them in scoring position. The Irish picked up hits on nearly half of their 2-out at-bats (5-for-12), with 9 of the team’s 16 RBI coming with 2-outs on the scoreboard.
The Irish remain tied with Cincinnati for 6th-place in the BIG EAST but moved closer to 5th-place South Florida (9-8), which failed to hold an early lead in Saturday’s 7-5 loss to Rutgers. Notre Dame has three “games-in-hand” versus USF (and 4th-place Pittsburgh, which is 10-6), as the Bulls and Panthers have an upcoming bye week – meaning that ND now controls its own destiny to possibly catch USF in the standings. As a reminder, final standings are based on winning percentage.
West Virginia (21-13, 5-8) dropped into 8th place, just percentage points ahead of three teams that currently are 5-9 (Villanova, Seton Hall and UConn). Rutgers (11-3) – which will play host to Notre Dame next weekend – sits atop the standings, followed by Louisville and St. John’s (both 10-4). Notre Dame pushed its winning streak versus WVU to 10 games, its third-longest win streak vs. any BIG EAST team.
Dury’s home run was his team-best seventh of the season but first from the right side of the plate, as the Irish faced junior lefthander Matt Yurish (2-3) during the first two innings of the game. The switch-hitting Dury is the first Notre Dame player in nearly 10 years to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same season, dating back to the 1998 season when outfielder Allen Greene hit five righthanded home runs and two from the left side. Greene – who went on to play in the Yankees organization and currently works in the Notre Dame athletics compliance office – interestingly had hit six lefthanded home runs a year earlier in 1997 (plus one from the right side).
Pollock had a hand in eight of the 17 Irish runs, with his six RBI coming one shy of tying that Notre Dame record. The Irish 2-hole hitter scored three runs and pushed his season batting average to .361. Notre Dame leadoff batter Brett Lilley (.364) went 1-for-2 and reached base four other times on a pair of walks and two times hit-by-pitch, leading to two runs scored. Lilley now stands alone in 7th-place on the NCAA Division I list for career HBPs (66), still 18 behind former teammate Cody Rizzo (who ended up 2nd on the NCAA list, eight shy of tying the record).
All nine Notre Dame starters collected hits and scored at least one run, led by Pollock, Weglarz (3-for-5, 5 RBI), Dury (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 3 R, BB) and junior leftfielder Ross Brezovsky (2-for-4, RBI, 2 R, BB). The Irish had totaled just 13 home runs in the 37 previous games this season, ending a 14-game home run drought. After going 24 days without a single home run, the Notre Dame offense erupted for its first game with four home runs since last season’s 15-1 win over Oakland on April 11, 2006.
Nearly 4,000 tickets were sold for Saturday’s game (3,927), with the overflow crowd treated to the impressive display by the Irish offense. The previous top crowd in Eck Stadium history was for last season’s Friday-night game versus Rutgers (April 21, 2006), when 3,507 saw the Irish post an 11-5 win. That 2006 ND-RU series – which also was held during the weekend of the Blue-Gold football scrimmage – ultimately drew an Eck Stadium-record 10,003 for the three games, with a crowd of 3,505 needed on Sunday to break that mark.
Weiland allowed four leadoff batters to reach in his 6.0 innings but avoided any major trouble, yielding three runs in the 3rd and another in the 6th. The converted closer scattered eight hits, three walks and three hit batters while striking out five and locating 61 of his 98 pitches for strikes. Junior RHP Joey Williamson qualified for his second save of the season, after allowing two runs and facing 14 batters over the final three innings (4 H, BB, 3 Ks).
Senior centerfielder Danny Dressman started the bottom of the 2nd by sending an opposite-field single through the left side before scoring moments later, as Dury launched the next pitch over the fence in center field. The senior first baseman’s seven home runs this season are nearly double his total from the 2004-06 seasons combined (4), with Saturday’s blast marking his second from the right side in an official game with the Irish (he also has hit several righthanded home runs in fall ball during his career).
The six Irish runs in the 2nd also included Ryan Connolly’s five-pitch walk and Lilley’s single through the right side before Pollock – who entered the game batting .444 vs. LHPs – pulled a 2-1 pitch down the leftfield line for a no-doubter and the freshman third baseman’s third home run of the season. With just one out on the board, Brezovsky reached on an infield single to the right side, as did the veteran catcher Weglarz (to the left), before sophomore second baseman Jeremy Barnes sent a single through the left side for the 6-0 lead.
Dury led off the 3rd with a single up the middle (1-0 pitch) and freshman DH Ryan Smith walked on five pitches, ending the short stint for Yurish (8 R, 8 H, 4 BB, K) – whose three career appearances versus the Irish now include 13 earned runs and 13 hits allowed (4 HR) in just 4.1 innings. Trent Ridgley, the WVU designated hitter, then took the mound for double duty and picked up a strikeout and flyout (which moved Dury to third) before Pollock ripped a 2-2 pitch into center field for an RBI double. Brezovsky followed with his own five-pitch walk and Weglarz delivered on a 1-2 count, clearing the leftfield fence for the grand slam and his second home run of the season (13th of his career), pushing the lead to 11-3.
Barnes opened the bottom of the 6th with his first home of the season and third of his young career, sending a first-pitch blast off the scoreboard in left field to chase Ridgley from the game. Senior LHP Eric Saffell then took the mound but failed to derail Notre Dame’s third big inning of the day, as Dury drew a four-pitch walk, Smith singled through the right side and Lilley reached on an HBP before Pollock pulled a two-run single through the left side. Brezovsky added a run-scoring single to right-center and Weglarz extended the lead to 16-4 by going the other way for a single through the right side.
Notre Dame’s final run came in the 8th, as Connolly singled versus RHP Joe Stupka and came around to score, following a wild pitch, walks by Lilley and Pollock, and another wild pitch.
NOTES – The Irish won 23 straight vs. Georgetown from 1995-2003 and beat UConn 11 straight times from ’03-’06 (still an unbeaten streak vs. the Huskies, at 11-0-1) … ND’s 17 runs are its most in any game of its series with WVU, spanning 47 games (ND leads the series, 34-13) … the only games at Eck Stadium in which ND has scored more runs include 25 vs. South Alabama (’02), 23 vs. Detroit (’02), 19 vs. Georgetown (’98), 18 vs. Pittsburgh (’00) and 18 vs. Cleveland State (’94) … the Irish now own a huge 29-7 scoring edge in the 2nd inning while the 3rd remains ND’s highest-scoring inning (43-31 margin) … the Irish now have totaled 11 big innings (5-plus runs) this season, including seven with 6-plus runs … WVU entered the series averaging 8.9 runs per 9-innings but has totaled just 8 in two games … BIG EAST leading hitter Justin Jenkins has combined to go just 2-for-7 vs. the Irish so far in the series … Lilley still has not made an error in his past 17 games, spanning 71 fielding chances … ND posted its ninth error-free game of the season … Lilley now has 11 career games with multiple HBPs … Sunday’s probable starting pitchers include ND freshman RHP Eric Maust and WVU junior LHP Kenny Durst … the previous game in which ND scored 5-plus runs in three innings of the same game was the 23-1 win over Detroit on May 15, 2002 (10 in 1st, 5 in 3rd, 6 in 5th, also 2 in 4th; game was 7-innings).
West Virginia (22-13, 5-8 BIG EAST) 0-0-3 0-0-1 0-0-2 – 6 12 1
Notre Dame (21-17, 6-7 BIG EAST) 0-6-5 0-0-5 0-1-X – 17 16 0
Home Runs: Mike Dury, ND (1 on in 2nd; 7th of season/11th of career), A.J. Pollock, ND (2 on in 2nd; 3rd of season), Weglarz (grand slam in 3rd; 2nd of season/13th of career), Jeremy Barnes (leadoff in 6th; 1st of season/3rd of career).
Doubles: Pollock (ND), Ridgley (WVU), Vince Belnome (WVU), Mike Schmidt (WVU).