April 13, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – David Phelps firmly established himself as one of the top contenders for BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-year honors while a 3-for-3 night from cleanup batter Matt Weglarz led a strong showing from the middle of the order, as the Notre Dame baseball team registered its third straight win in Friday night’s 10-0 BIG EAST series opener with Georgetown. Phelps – who entered the week ranked 11th in the nation with a 1.51 season ERA – lowered that mark to 1.34, with his eight strikeouts matching his combined walks (2) and hits allowed (6) in 7.0 innings of work.
Notre Dame (16-16, 3-6 BIG EAST), which improved to 7-3 at Eck Stadium this season, claimed an early 4-0 lead before pulling away with a pair of three-run innings in the lategoing. The 3-4-5 hitters – Ross Brezovsky, Weglarz and Danny Dressman – each reached base four times in the game, after combining to bat 7-for-10 with 4 walks, 5 RBI and 7 runs scored (one of them also reached on an error). Half of the Notre Dame victories this season have come by margins of 5-plus runs, including four in which the Irish have outscored their opponent by 10 or more runs.
Phelps (5-3) located 66 of his 107 pitches for strikes while totaling 18 of his outs via strikeouts (8), groundouts (7) and infield popups/lineouts (3). His pair of errant pickoff throws were the only errors in the game, as the Irish position players turned in a strong game that included a pair of memorable double plays. The first came in the 7th, as the lefthanded-throwing first baseman Mike Dury started the textbook 3-6-1 double play (with Phelps completed the two-out sequence). One inning later, shortstop Brett Lilley went in the hole and made the quick throw across his body for a close forceout, followed by a strong relay by second baseman Jeremy Barnes to complete that double play.
It marked just the second time all season that the Irish have turned more than one double play in a game, with the previous one coming nearly a month earlier in the 5-2 win over Dayton (2 DPs) on the final day of the Spring Break trip (March 17).
Lilley handled all five of his fielding chances while extending his errorless streak to 11 games. It matches the third-longest stretch without an error in Lilley’s career, trailing only a 21-game span without an error in 2005 and 14 straight games without an E later in that freshman season (he also had an 11-game errorless streak in ’06).
Getting strong and steady production from the 3-hole has been a bugaboo for the Irish offense throughout the 2007 season, as the batters in that spot had combined to hit just .240 with a lowly .331 on-base percentage and only 23 RBI and 23 runs scored in the previous 31 games of 2007. Brezovsky’s effort on Friday easily rates as one of ND’s most productive in the 3-hole this season, as the junior leftfielder hit 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and two runs scored.
Weglarz (3-for-3, RBI, 3 R, BB) matched his season-high hit total while boosting his season batting average from .213 to .250. Dressman continued to add key contributions in the 5-hole, batting 2-for-4 with a walk while factoring into four of the team’s runs (2 RBI, 2 R).
Phelps – who still has allowed more unearned runs (10) than earned runs (9) this season – is on pace for one of the top seasons ever by a Notre Dame pitcher. His current ERA (1.34) would rank 6th-best in the ND record book and would be 2nd-best by an Irish pitcher in the past 45 years, behind the 1.05 posted by David Sinnes in 1990. Phelps also now owns a 3.2 K-to-walk ratio (54/17) while his innings (60.2) number nine more than his hits allowed (52). His nine starts this season have included four with 7-plus Ks (the 8 on Friday are 2nd-most in his career). Phelps is averaging 6.2 innings per start this season and has pitched into the 7th in five of the nine starts.
The Irish scored twice in their first trip to the plate, without the benefit of a hit. Senior righthander Erick Chandler plunked Lilley with a 3-1 plucked and then walked A.J. Pollock and Ross Brezovsky (on four straight pitches). Weglarz followed with a sacrifice fly to center field and Barnes plated another run with his leftside groundout, as the Irish pushed their season 1st-inning scoring total to 30 runs in 32 games. Notre Dame now has scored 1st-inning runs in 15 games this season, with a 9-6 record when getting that quick start.
Brezovsky’s full-count walk in the 3rd sparked another two-run sequence, with this one featuring just one hit (a Weglarz first-pitch single, pulled down the leftfield line). Dressman then walked on five pitches and the runners came home on the ensuing sacrifice flies off the bats of Barnes (to center) and Dury (to left).
The Irish padded their lead with three runs in the 7th, versus lefthander Alex Meyer. Weglarz slapped a one-out single through the left side and moved up on a balk before Dressman’s smash off the pitcher left runners on the corners. Weglarz then stole home on a pickoff throw to first base (Dressman took second on the wild throw home) and Barnes added an RBI single for the 5-0 lead. Freshman DH Ryan Smith then had Notre Dame’s only extra-base hit of the game, going with an 0-2 pitch for a two-out, opposite-field double down the rightfield line (scoring Barnes).
Notre Dame now owns a dominating 33-14 scoring edge in the 7th inning, accounting for nearly 20% of the team’s total runs scored this season.
Two of the final three runs (all in the 8th) came unearned. Brezovsky’s infield single to the left side started a two-out rally that was followed by singled from Weglarz and Dressman (RBI), a wild pickoff throw and a dropped popup in the infield.
NOTES – The Irish had averaged just 4.9 runs per game in the eight previous starts by Phelps this season (16 of those 39 runs had come in one game, vs. Nebraska) … Lilley’s 63 career HBPs remain 7th in NCAA D-I history, now two back of 6th-place on that list … ND reached double-digit runs for the 10th time this season (9-1 in those games) and now is 11-3 when totaling 10-plus hits … the Irish also improved to 14-5 when scoring first, 14-4 when outhitting the opponent and 13-1 when entering the 7th inning with the lead … a pair of seniors, RHP Jess Stewart and LHP Dury, closed out the game for the shared shutout … Dury dropped his season ERA to 2.61 while lowering the best career ERA in Notre Dame history (min. 60 IP) to 1.92.
Georgetown (12-22, 2-8 BIG EAST) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 0 7 2
Notre Dame (16-16, 3-6 BIG EAST) 2-0-2 0-0-0 3-2-X – 10 10 2
Doubles: Ryan Smith (ND), Matt Harrigan (GU), Matthew Maranges (GU).