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M Baseball: Cove Classic

Joe Meixell | Thursday, April 21, 2005

The list of classics at the Cove grew Wednesday night.

Notre Dame defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 9-7 in a 12-inning thriller at the single-A South Bend Silverhawks’ Coveleski Stadium. Outfielder Craig Cooper smashed a mammoth walk-off home run to left field, sending the Irish to their fourth straight victory.

Notre Dame and Purdue met for the 116th time Wednesday – the sixth-most Irish meetings against any single opponent. The Irish lead the all-time series 76-37-3 after Wednesday’s dramatic victory.

Starting Irish pitcher Wade Korpi threw six solid innings, allowing six runs – three earned.

While the contest lasted slightly over four hours, it ranks alongside the 1989 season’s memorable games at the Cove.

That year, the Midwestern Collegiate Conference [the Irish’s conference prior to joining the Big East] Tournament was held at Coveleski Stadium.

The week of the tourney, it poured.

Games were pushed back until the teams were forced to compete at ungodly hours, and Irish ballplayers made an incredible run through the tournament – winning four straight games in a span of 23 hours. The first of those four ended at 4:24 a.m.

Wednesday, heading into the 12th inning, the time read nearly 10 p.m., and the way the relief pitchers were holding their own, the already-epic battle seemed destined for another late-night, early-morning finish.

But Cooper wanted to get home.

“That’s the first time [I’ve had a walk-off home run],” said Cooper, who hit his fourth home run of the season. “It was awesome coming around third base, and you could see everyone crowded around home plate. It was just a great feeling.”

Cooper was mobbed at home plate as the Irish celebrated their seventh win over the Boilermakers in the 11-year Mainieri era.

Early on, the ball simply didn’t bounce Notre Dame’s way.

“Early in the game, I thought we had a lot of bad luck, bad hops,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “We hit a lot of balls hard right at people.”

The Irish rallied from two down in the bottom of the eighth to take a 7-6 lead, but ace closer Ryan Doherty couldn’t finish the Purdue Boilermakers. Doherty walked the first Boilermaker in the top of the ninth.

Purdue rightfielder Neal Gorka then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to scoring position, and third baseman John Hunter singled up the middle to knot the game at seven.

After two and a half scoreless extra innings, third baseman Brett Lilley led of the bottom of the 12th with a walk, and Cooper sent the game-winner sailing over the left field fence. Freshman righthander Tony Langford was the winning pitcher.

He nabbed his first win of the season after pitching two-thirds of an inning and shutting down the Boilermaker hitters.

First baseman Matt Edwards and Lilley continue to pace the Irish on the offensive side. Lilley finished with two hits against Purdue. Centerfielder Alex Nettey broke out of a slump with a four-hit game. Notre Dame improved to 21-15 and dropped Purdue to 11-22.

Tonight at 6 p.m., the Irish will take the diamond at Frank Eck Stadium to face the Valparaiso Crusaders.