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Baseball: Offense struggles in Metrodome

Ken Fowler and Heather Van Hoegarden | Monday, March 6, 2006

Notre Dame suffered two shutouts and scored just one run in this weekend’s Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., ending a streak of 215 games in which the Irish had scored at least once.

After Nebraska blew out Notre Dame 11-1 Friday, the Irish surrendered eight runs to host Minnesota Saturday and lost an extra-innings affair with Arizona Sunday, leaving the team on a five-game losing streak.

“Confidence is a very fragile thing,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating when we only score one run in three games – it’s hard to win.”

Arizona 2, Notre Dame 0 (10)

Notre Dame found its pitching groove Sunday behind Jeff Manship’s 10 strikeouts and Jeff Williamson’s perfect inning in relief, but the bats failed to produce for the Irish as they fell 2-0 to Arizona in 10 innings to drop their fifth straight.

The Wildcats used a hit batsmen, a triple and a sacrifice fly in the tenth to score their two runs in the final contests for the two teams in the Dairy Queen Classic.

With no outs in the extra frame, second baseman Brad Boyer tripled home third baseman Colt Sedbrook off Irish reliever Kyle Weiland, and Arizona’s Jason Donald drove in Boyer with a sacrifice fly to center.

“Kyle Weiland was really good,” Mainieri said. “But sooner or later, something has to break.”

Notre Dame looked like it would get on the board early, but a strong defensive play kept the game scoreless.

On a 2-2 count, Irish freshman first-baseman Jeremy Barnes lined a two-out single to right field in the first, but Arizona’s John Gaston threw Brett Lilley out at the plate, ending the bottom of the inning.

Barnes’ single was the first Irish hit with a runner on base since Friday but failed to get Lilley across. Barnes finished 3-4 on the afternoon.

“Unfortunately, the runner got thrown out at the plate, but that was a big hit,” Mainieri said. “If he doesn’t get thrown out at the plate, maybe when we get that first run, we relax a little bit more and pull through.”

Manship gave up just three hits and two walks in six innings before handing the ball over to Williamson in the seventh. Manship’s 10 strikeouts were a career high and the most by an Irish mound-dweller since Tom Thornton struck out 12 Golden Flashes in a 2004 NCAA elimination game.

“Jeff Manship today was absolutely phenomenal,” Mainieri said. “Joey Willimason was great when he came in for an inning.”

Minnesota 8, Notre Dame 0

The host team not only defeated but shutout Notre Dame on Saturday, as Minnesota (1-4) righthander Cole DeVries threw six shutout innings, giving up four hits and striking out three.

“Even though we got shut out, I think we showed good signs at the plate,” Mainieri said of his team’s seven-hit performance. “We really hit the ball hard, so we’ve got to remain positive.”

The Irish were unable to convert on multiple scoring opportunities, going 0-for-7 at the plate with runners on base. The shutout marked the first time the Irish have been held scoreless since the 2002 season.

“Things just didn’t go well for us,” Mainieri said. “We had a couple chances early in the game but didn’t take advantage of them.”

Notre Dame righthander Jeff Samardzija got the loss after allowing five runs in four innings of work, evening his record to 1-1. The Golden Gophers got on the board in the bottom of the second, pushing three runs across after a two-run double by freshman Nate Hanson, followed by an RBI single by Tony Leseman. In the fifth, the Golden Gophers added two more after two RBI doubles by Dan Lyons and Mike Mee. Minnesota finished off the scoring in the sixth when it scored three more runs.

Meanwhile, the Irish offense struggled, registering only seven hits, two of which were by shortstop Greg Lopez.

“I have all the confidence in the world that things will be all right,” Mainieri said. “This is so normal for us, to start slow. The important thing is that we keep our chins up and keep battling.”

No. 4 Nebraska 11, Notre Dame 1

Nebraska rode the arm of its ace Joba Chamberlain on Friday, as he struck out 11 of the 25 batters he faced in seven shutout innings. Chamberlain, rated by Baseball American as the nation’s No. 12 pro prospect, gave up just three hits – all singles – and one walk for Nebraska.

Nebraska got on the scoreboard early, pushing one run across in the first, two in the second and four in the third against Notre Dame starter Tom Thornton. Thornton, who pitched seven scoreless innings last week against Indiana State, gave up seven runs on 10 hits in 2.1 innings, picking up the loss.

Nebraska cleanup hitter Luke Gorsett hit for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with a single in the first, a homer in the third and a double in the fourth and a triple in the eighth. He had a part in five of his team’s runs.

“When we have a tough game like we did against Nebraska and have to turn around and play the next day, you hope that they can put it behind them,” Mainieri said.

Notre Dame avoided the shutout in the eighth when leftfielder Danny Dressman hit a one-out triple and centerfielder Alex Netty knocked him in with an RBI single.

Notes:

u Irish standout catcher Sean Gaston injured his arm in Saturday’s game and sat out Sunday against Arizona Mainieri said.

u Two-sport athlete Evan Sharpley saw his first collegiate action Friday. The backup quarterback pinch hit for Matt Bransfield in the seventh and took over for Bransfield at first base. Sharpley struck out looking in both the seventh and the eighth.