David Casey

Resilient Irish Rise To Defeat Rutgers, 9-8

April 9, 2010

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After waiting through a lengthy delay for an illegal Rutgers substitution in the eighth inning, pinch-hitter David Casey (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) delivered a two-out, game-tying single and freshman Adam Norton (Highland, Ind.) followed with an RBI triple over the head of a diving Jarred Jimenez in center field to give the Irish a 9-8, come-from-behind victory over Rutgers Friday night at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame extended its home winning streak versus the Scarlet Knights to 10 games in the process; Rutgers has not defeated the Irish at Frank Eck Stadium since May 5, 2002.

The controversy began when Rutgers, leading 8-7, attempted to bring its freshman closer, Tyler Gebler, into the game with two outs in the eighth and senior Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.) on second base after reaching on an error. Gebler, who normally wears #43, was wearing jersey #4 for Friday’s contest, but #41 was crossed out (and #4 written next to it) instead of #43 on the lineup card. The umpires thenceforth deemed Gebler (who has a 1.84 ERA and six saves on the season) ineligible because he was incorrectly listed on the lineup card, and the Scarlet Knights had to turn to Kevin Lillis instead, who promptly blew the save and took the loss (0-2) after giving up the final two Irish hits.

The Irish (11-17, 2-5 BIG EAST) battled back from 1-0, 6-2, and 8-7 deficits in the game and registered their first victory of the season when trailing after seven innings.

Junior Brian Dupra (Rochester, N.Y.) made the start for Notre Dame but struggled, throwing 101 pitches in 4.0+ innings. He yielded six runs (five earned) on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts, failing to extend his streak of 6.0+-inning outings to six. Senior David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.) worked a career-high 4.0 innings for the victory (1-1) in relief of Dupra, giving up two runs on a Jaren Matthews bomb. Mills also drove in a pair of runs, giving him nine RBI in his last four games.

Rutgers (15-13, 5-2) did not go quietly in the top of the ninth, giving rise to an exciting finish. Sophomore Will Hudgins (Richmond, Va.) gave up an infield single to the leadoff batter and was removed for sophomore Joe Spano (Verona, N.J.), who retired the only batter he faced thanks to a diving stop by senior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) at first. In came senior Steven Mazur (Round Rock, Texas), who walked the first batter he faced to put runners on first and second with one out. Then with a full-count on D.J. Anderson, the runners took off, Anderson swung and missed, and freshman catcher Joe Hudson (Odessa, Fla.) pegged Steve Nyisztor (the actual #41) at third for the game-ending, “strike ’em out, throw ’em out” double play. The save was Mazur’s fourth of the season and second in as many games.

Dupra looked sharp to begin the first, but a pair of errors cost the Irish starter a run and 10 extra pitches. After the first two hitters were retired, Nyisztor hit a routine ground ball to shortstop, but Mick Doyle’s (LaGrange Park, Ill.) throw sailed high and Martin could not apply the tag in time. Nyisztor then hustled all the way around to score when Matthews’ fly ball fell between seniors Ryan Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.) and Bill Warrender (Collegeville, Pa.) in left (Matthews’ at bat had been prolonged when his wind-blown popup eluded Norton in foul ground). A second Doyle miscue prolonged the inning for Anderson, but Dupra got the junior to pop out to end the threat.

The wind played tricks on a high pop again in the second inning, as Martin could not corral a popup just outside of the foul line, but hitter Brandon Boykin was called out for interfering with Martin on his way down to first.

A superb bounce-back by Dupra in the third inning set the stage for the Irish to take the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Dupra uncharacteristically walked the first two batters of the frame (the first time this season and just the fourth time in his career Dupra has walked consecutive batters), and Nyisztor beat out his bunt for a single to load the bases with nobody out. But Dupra punched out cleanup hitter Matthews for the first out and then induced Jayson Hernandez to ground into 4-6-3 inning-ending twin killing to keep Rutgers off the board.

The Irish channeled the energy from Dupra’s battle into a pair of runs in the next half-inning to take a 2-1 lead. Connolly extended his on-base streak to 40 games by taking a 2-2 fastball from Rutgers starter Jerry Elsing off the shoulder; the fifth-year senior then took off on the next pitch, which freshman Frank Desico (Cleveland, Ohio) deposited into right field for a single (in nearly the exact spot vacated by the second baseman), putting runners on the corners with one away. Mills then blasted a double over the head of Jimenez in center to plate Connolly, and Martin followed with a first-pitch RBI groundout to put the Irish on top.

Mills has now recorded an extra-base hit in four straight games, tying for the longest streak of his career and the longest for an active Irish player (Connolly had a four-game streak earlier this season and David Casey put together a four-game stretch last season).

Shortstop Dan Betteridge tied the game with a two-out solo home run to right in the fourth inning, and then the wheels came off for Dupra in the fifth inning, as four consecutive singles following a leadoff walk brought three runs home, with another crossing the plate (making the score 6-2) after he was lifted in favor of Mills. Mills did nice job of controlling the damage, retiring all three batters he faced in the inning after taking the hill.

Mills’ effectiveness from the mound proved crucial, as the Irish got all four runs back and one more in the bottom half of the inning, this time making Rutgers pay for a pair of key errors. Norton walked on five pitches to begin the inning, and Connolly followed with a blast to that went off the glove of Pat Biserta in left for a double. Desico then did his job, grounding to the right side to bring in a run and move Connolly to third base. Mills followed with more of the same, grounding to Matthews at first, but Elsing dropped the throw to allow Mills to reach, with Connolly scoring on the play to make the score 6-4 in favor of the Scarlet Knights. Martin then popped to shallow right field, but second baseman Nyisztor dropped it for an error. Doyle ripped a double to right center to bring home Mills, Martin scampered home on a wild pitch, and Ashdown picked up the third RBI groundout of the inning to give the Irish a 7-6 lead.

A Rutgers circuit clout again erased an Irish lead in the seventh, as Matthews launched a majestic home run to right off of Mills with a runner on to give the Scarlet Knights the 8-7 cushion, but the Irish escaped with the final smile of the evening thanks to the eighth- and ninth-inning heroics.

Game two of the series will start at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium. Sophomore lefty Steve Sabatino (2-3, 5.05 ERA) will square off against right-hander Casey Gaynor (3-3, 5.70 ERA) of Rutgers.

— ND —