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Baseball: Dury’s bat helps slay Spartans

Kyle Cassily | Thursday, April 13, 2006

Notre Dame freshman right-hander David Phelps pitched seven shutout innings and designated hitter Mike Dury launched a three-run home run over the right field fence with a little help from Mother Nature as the No. 21 Irish (24-8, 8-1 Big East) beat Division-III Manchester College (20-5) 8-2 Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame used a seven-run fourth inning to extend its winning streak to 14 games, and Phelps secured his second career win by scattering four hits and fanning seven Spartan batters.

The freshman worked out of several jams early in the game but settled down and did not allow a runner on base past the fourth inning. He struck out two Spartan batters – the last one looking – to escape a bases loaded situation in the second, and he ended a fourth-inning threat by forcing Manchester left fielder Danner Partridge to ground into a double play.

“I thought [Phelps] showed a lot of confidence and a lot of poise, something that you want to see in a rookie,” Dury said. “This is really the first time he’s got to come out here and really show everybody what he’s got. He’s got a great future ahead of him and I was really happy to see him succeed out there today.”

Dury’s three-run line drive in the fourth opened the flood gates, extending Notre Dame’s lead to 4-0. A switch hitter, Dury batted from the left side of the plate and turned on an inside fastball from Spartans lefthander Marcus Miller with the help of a stiff wind blowing out.

“The three-run homer kind of opened up and let everybody relax a bit including Phelps,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said. “He didn’t have to be perfect with every pitch like he would be in a one-run game. It was a big blow for us.”

Notre Dame right fielder Danny Dressman took a bases-loaded walk later in the fourth to score Alex Nettey, who had reached base on a bloop single to left. Irish shortstop Jeremy Barnes then ripped a two-run single up the middle, opening the lead to 7-0.

Irish infielder Eddie Smith followed Barnes with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Dressman and gave Notre Dame an 8-0 advantage.

“Usually when the weather warms up, our hitting gets better,” Mainieri said of the rally. “I don’t know if it’s the climate or just the fact that we’ve played more and the guys are getting more comfortable.”

Irish first baseman Craig Cooper began the scoring for Notre Dame with a leadoff homer in the first that sailed over the wall in right-center.

“Cooper hit that ball good, but I think he got a little help from the wind,” Mainieri said. “I don’t know if that would have been a home run under still conditions, but you know what – the wind blows here a lot. We teach our hitters to take advantage of the climate if the wind is blowing that way.”

Manchester scored its two runs in the ninth inning off Irish freshman reliever Brett Graffy. Spartans designated hitter Zach Scott reached first on an infield single and scored on center fielder Scott Tarnowski’s triple to left center. Tarnowski then scored on Manchester first baseman Zac Birely’s sacrifice fly to right.

Graffy settled down and struck out Spartan third baseman Jordan Adams and induced a groundout by Treesh to secure the 8-2 win.

Notre Dame takes to the diamond again today at Frank Eck Stadium with a doubleheader against Big East rival St. John’s. The opening pitches are scheduled for 12:05 and 4:05 p.m. and the series finale will take place Saturday at 12:05 p.m.

The Irish are currently tied for first place with the Red Storm in the Big East standings – each holding an 8-1 record.

The teams split league honors last season, with the Red Storm taking the regular season title and the Irish reigning as champions of the tournament. Both received NCAA tournament bids – the only two Big East teams to earn berths.

“This is the biggest day of the year, there’s no question about that,” Mainieri said. “It’s going to be an enormous series. We’re excited, I’m sure St. John’s is excited. Let’s get it on.”