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Irish drop two of three to Dayton

Tom Dorwart | Monday, February 28, 2005

The Irish defense and pitching hit a cold stretch in hot Arizona.

Notre Dame (4-3) suffered back-to-back losses this weekend for the first time since a two-game series at Pittsburgh last April 25th and 26th. Previously dominant, the Irish pitchers failed to close out the final two games against the Dayton Flyers (5-3) after junior pitcher Tom Thornton allowed just two runs on six hits in six innings and 92 pitches of work in the opener – which the Irish won 10-2.

Notre Dame lost 13-9 in 11 innings in the second Saturday game and fell again Sunday in a nail-biter 11-10.

“There were a lot of guys that just didn’t throw well. That’s the cold facts of it. And we get a good win in the opener, and, then, in the second game of the doubleheader, we took a 7-5 lead into the ninth inning despite the fact that we had had a couple of rocky performances from Jess Stewart and Derik Olvey,” coach Paul Mainieri said.

In a back-and-forth game, the Irish turned to Ryan Doherty, their reliable and commanding closer.

“A guy that had been pretty consistent for us, Ryan Doherty, just didn’t get the job done. We blew the lead in the ninth and still had a chance to win it in the 10th and 11th.”

With the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th, center fielder Craig Cooper flew out, stranding the winning run 90 feet from home. The Flyers took advantage of third baseman Ross Brezovsky’s fielding error in the 11th to put the winning run on base.

Things snowballed from there.

Dayton plated five runs – enough cushion to hold off the Irish.

Notre Dame’s offense continued to roll in the Sunday rubber match. Ten runs crossed the plate for the Irish in another offensive battle.

Ten was not enough.

“Whether we had 16 hits or 12 hits or however many hits we had, you’ve got to hit enough to help your team win, and even though there were a lot of key hits, there were some key at bats throughout the course of the weekend where we didn’t come through. And it cost us the ballgame,” Mainieri said.

“So in some ways you’re excited about the way that guys are swinging the bats, but, on the other hand, you don’t let yourself get too excited because they didn’t do enough to win.”

Shortstop Greg Lopez now leads the Irish with a .421 batting average after a solid weekend, and Brezovsky comes in a close second, batting .414.

While most students relax during spring break, the Irish will do anything but take time off.

Though it’s early, the squad enters one of the toughest stretches of the season during the break. The Irish head to Texas to face perennial powers Rice (10-2) and Texas A&M (7-4) as well as Texas State – who defeated Rice last year in the opening game of the Houston Regional – (10-3), Southwest Missouri State – a 2003 College World Series qualifier – (1-5) and Oral Roberts (5-3) – the 25th ranked team in the nation.

Mainieri knows his team is up to the challenge.

“There were a lot of things that went wrong [against Dayton], and we didn’t overcome them,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to address in order to get better, but it’s a long season.