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BASEBALL: Irish fall twice at Rutgers

Tom Dorwart | Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Rain washed out the Notre Dame, Rutgers Big East series for two straight days. It also washed away any momentum the Irish had going into the conference showdown against the Scarlet Knights.

Riding a four-game winning streak as they headed to Piscataway, New Jersey to face archrival Rutgers, the Irish (13-12, 3-3 Big East) seemed poised for a strong showing against Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights handled the Irish for the first 14 innings of their Monday afternoon make-up doubleheader sweep.

Rutgers won the first game 5-3 in seven innings and pulled off another squeaker in the second 11-10 in 10 innings in another classic series.

Rutgers’ Jason Grover hit a grand slam in the fifth off of Notre Dame starter Tom Thornton in the opener. Thornton had retired the first nine batters he faced, but he had to work his way out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth and gave up the decisive four-run smash in the fifth – losing his fourth game of the season.

In the second game, Irish were outplayed up until the eighth inning – with Rutgers racking up 12 hits, nine runs and three doubles compared to Notre Dame’s four hits, three runs and one double. The Irish were outhit on the game 17-9.

Into the eighth inning, Notre Dame had as many errors as hits – five. Rutgers led 9-3, the Irish fought back picking away at the Knights’ lead with two runs in the top of the eighth.

In a dramatic comeback in the top of the ninth, the Irish sent eight batters to the plate and put up five runs after surrendering a run in the bottom of the eighth. Freshman Tony Langford launched the game-tying home run, his second homer of the game.

The instant classic headed into the 10th inning tied at 10.

Notre Dame closer Ryan Doherty fanned the first two Rutgers batters he faced but couldn’t finish. One out away from sending the game to its 11th inning, the 7-1 New Jersey native – who pitched 2.2 innings – then yielded three singles in-a-row. The Scarlet Knights’ Johnny Defendis lined the game-winning single to left-center for the 11-10 victory.

Matt Edwards and Craig Cooper each had two-hit days for the Irish.

All-time, Notre Dame and Rutgers have competed in 18 games decided by two or fewer runs.

Junior centerfielder Alex Nettey extended his hitting streak to 14 games with hits in each of the Monday games. Through the first 25 games, second baseman Brett Lilley leads the Irish with over a .550 on-base percentage. The Scarlet Knights were able to run throughout the two-game set – stealing seven bases on the Irish defense.

The Irish return to action tonight to face their third Mid-American Conference team this season – the Toledo Rockets (7-17) – at 5:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame is 2-0 against MAC opponents this season. In another midweek clash against a MAC opponent, the Irish will remain at home against Ball State (16-9) Wednesday before continuing Big East Conference play at Boston College this weekend.