April 22, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – NOTRE DAME, Ind. – West Virginia lived up to its billing as one of the nation’s top offensive teams, scoring the final nine runs of Sunday’s game to break open a back-and-forth battle with Notre Dame, 16-7, in the BIG EAST baseball series finale at Eck Stadium. The Irish overcame two early deficits to take short-lived leads and later came back to forge a 7-7 tie in the 6th, but the Mountaineers surged to the victory with three runs in the 7th, another in the 8th and then the clinching 5-spot in the 9th.
Notre Dame (21-18, 6-8 BIG EAST) missed out on a chance to move into a tie for 5th-place in the BIG EAST standings, instead falling back into a tie with West Virginia (23-13, 6-8) for the 7th-place spot. Those two teams maintained their cushion on teams outside the top-8, as Villanova, Seton Hall and Connecticut all lost (each fell to 5-10) while Georgetown (3-12) remained in last place.
Freshman righthander Eric Maust – the eighth different ND pitcher to be tried in the three-man weekend rotation this season – did not factor into the decision, after allowing seven runs (five earned) on eight hits and a pair of walks over 4.2 innings (with 2 Ks). Senior righthander Dan Kapala (0-4), who again was held out of the rotation due to tendonitis that flared up last week, made a return to action but took the loss (2.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R).
WVU’s seven doubles in Sunday’s game are the most ever by a visiting team in the 14-year history of Eck Stadium. The Mountaineers also posted the third-most hits (20) and fourth-most runs by a visiting team in Eck Stadium history, with both marks ranking as the highest since UConn had 21 hits and 19 runs in a 2001 game versus the Irish. The nine-run margin represents Notre Dame’s sixth-biggest loss at Eck and biggest since Rutgers turned in an 11-0 shutout of the Irish in 2002.
Notre Dame knocked junior lefthander Kenny Durst out of the game in the 4th inning, with Durst surrendering six runs on nine hits and a walk, plus a pair of strikeouts. The Irish now are batting .322 versus LHPs this season (including 9-for-16 vs. Durst), more than 40 points higher than the ND season batting average vs. RHPs (.279).
WVU righthanded closer Chris Enourato (2-1) logged a season-high 5.2 innings to pick up the win, facing just 23 batters and surrendering only one run on three hits and pair of walks (2 Ks). Enourato entered the day having pitched just 16.1 innings all season, with an average of 2.1 innings per appearance.
Notre Dame’s winning streak versus WVU ended at 10 games, stretching back to the 2003 BIG EAST Tournament. The Mountaineers entered the week ranked 6th nationally in team batting average (3.36) and 14th in scoring, with 8.9 runs per 9.0 innings. Junior leftfielder Justin Jenkins – the BIG EAST’s leading hitter – led the WVU offense from his 3-hole spot on Sunday by batting 4-for-6 with three runs scored, pushing his season batting average to .429. Third baseman Vince Belnome (3-for-4, 2 RBI, 3 R, BB) and first baseman Jordon Yost (3-for-5, 4 RBI, 2 R) each rapped out a pair of doubles while providing key production from their respective 7th and 8th spots in the batting order.
Notre Dame’s #7 and #8 hitters also had noteworthy days, as senior first baseman Mike Dury (2-for-3, 2 R, BB) doubled from both sides of the plate while freshman DH Ryan Smith hit his first home run of the season and added an RBI single.
The Irish had a bases-loaded chance in the 8th, as a walk by Dury, Brett Lilley’s 68th career time hit-by-pitch and an A.J. Pollock walk brought the tying run to the plate. But Enourato induced a flyout to center field, sending the game on to the 9th with a four-run cushion.
Eight of the nine Notre Dame starters collected hits – including four with two-hit games – but the Irish were unable to get the bunched hits or clutch offense needed to keep pace with the potent WVU offense. Dury’s pair of doubles and one by Pollock produced a total of 10 doubles in the game, tying an Eck Stadium record that had stood for nearly 10 years (ND had eight doubles and Toledo added a pair in their 1998 game).
West Virginia scored the game’s first run, only to be answered by three scores from the Irish, and the Mountaineers then took a 5-4 lead in the 4th – with the hosts again answering right back for a pair of runs and a 6-5 lead. WVU then retook the lead (7-6) with two more runs in the 5th before a Notre Dame run tied the game in the 6th.
Sunday’s crowd of 2,512 ranks 16th-highest in the 14 years of play at Eck Stadium while the 9,011 total fans for the three games with WVU represents the third-highest series total in the stadium’s history (trailing only the 10,003 for the 2006 ND-Rutgers series).
Notre Dame’s three early runs came after a Lilley HBP, Pollock’s double down the leftfield line, Ross Brezovsky’s two-run single through the right side, a single to right by Matt Weglarz and a groundball off the bat of Jeremy Barnes (scoring another run). Smith then tacked on a run in the next inning, driving the first pitch he saw from Durst over the leftfield fence for a 4-1 Irish lead.
West Virginia came back to score four times in the 4th, the first time in 16 games that the Irish have allowed more than three runs in any inning. Belnome had an RBI double while Yost chased home two other runners with his own two-base hit, putting the visitors back into the lead (5-4).
Notre Dame snatched back the lead moments later, with the first scoring after Danny Dressman’s leadoff single and Dury’s double into the leftfielder corner (Dressman scored when the leftfielder had trouble fielding the ball). Smith then sent a full-count pitch through the left side for an opposite-field single, pushing the hosts to a 6-5 cushion.
The see-saw game continued in the 5th, as Yost delivered a 2-out single through the right side that plated two runs (7-6) and ended the day for Maust. The Irish tied the game one inning later, with Dury pulling a first-pitch double down the rightfield line (this time batting lefthanded, vs. Enourato) and coming home to score on Lilley’s 2-out single into center field.
WVU’s run-scoring hits in the 7th included Trent Ridgley’s bunt single, another double by Belnome and Mike Schmidt’s single into left field. Leadoff batter Adam White later added a two-run double to help plate five more runs in the 9th.
NOTES – Pollock now is batting 16-for-31 (.516) vs. LHPs this season … Lilley’s 68 career HBPs tie him for 6th in the NCAA record book and include 17 this season … Sunday has the 12th time in his career that Lilley has been hit two or more times in the same game … Lilley’s errorless streak now spans 18 games and 76 fielding chances (all at shortstop) while his middle-infield partner Jeremy Barnes has made just one error in his past nine games played … ND has totaled 34 runs in the 1st inning (21 allowed) and now owns a 30-7 margin in the 2nd.
West Virginia (23-13, 6-8 BIG EAST) 1-0-0 4-2-0 3-1-5 – 17 20 1
Notre Dame (21-18, 6-8 BIG EAST) 3-1-0 2-0-1 0-0-0 – 7 12 1