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Pitching staff dominates Valpo

Matt Lozar | Thursday, April 8, 2004

Heading into their biggest series of the season, the Irish are hitting on all cylinders.Breaking the game open with a six-run sixth inning, Notre Dame defeated Valparaiso 9-3 and extended its winning streak to 11 games Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium.”I didn’t really think it was us, but [it was] that kid making some good pitches. They made some good plays,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said. “I don’t panic anymore with these kids. Sometimes it takes a little while longer to get going, but once they get going, they never lose confidence. They just feel like if we stay close, we’ll win it late if we have to. I thought we played a real solid game.”In his fifth collegiate start, Jess Stewart threw five shutout innings, gave up only one hit and struck out six. He faced just 16 batters – one over the minimum – and left with a 1-0 lead.Mike Dury picked up the win after relieving Stewart to start the sixth. Dury gave up a lead-off homerun before retiring the next three batters and getting some help from the Irish offense in the bottom of the inning. “It’s a shame [Steward] didn’t get a win,” Mainieri said. “Everybody is really hitting Dury about vulturing a win. That’s the definition of a vulture right there. You relieve a guy that threw five shutout innings on one hit, give up the game-tying homerun and watch the team score six runs so you can pick up your first win.”Overall, Mainieri was pleased with his staff’s performance Wednesday.”I thought everybody threw well, even Mike Dury who gave up the home run but got the next three guys,” Mainieri said. “Jess was great and all the guys that followed him all threw well.”With the score tied at one, Steve Andres led off the sixth with a walk and scored on a Matt Bransfield double. Bransfield advanced to third on a pickoff attempt and scored on a wild pitch.After a Matt Edwards walk, Javi Sanchez singled to right and Edwards and Sanchez advanced an extra base after an error. Greg Lopez drove home Edwards with a single to make it 4-1. Sanchez scored on a Sean Gaston fly ball dropped by the left fielder to extend the lead to 5-1.With two outs in the inning, Matt Macri doubled down the left field line to drive home Lopez and Gaston to close out the scoring in the sixth.The Irish got two more in the seventh, while Valparaiso scored two in the ninth off Tyler Jones.With Boston College coming to the Eck this weekend, the Irish are facing their toughest conference opponent this season. But the Irish have won 11 straight, and Mainieri feels his team is ready for the Big East showdown. “I feel confident, really confident going into this weekend,” Mainieri said. “I think our guys are ready and primed to play, You don’t have to talk too hard to them about who we are playing. There’s a natural little adrenaline rush when the other team says Boston College across their chest.”We’ll be ready to play Saturday.”

NotesNotre Dame (24-3) and Texas (32-4) are currently tied for the best winning percentage in the country with a mark of .889.The Irish and Albany (16-3) are tied for the least losses in the country.