ND beats Nebraska to save weekend
Deirdre Krasula | Monday, March 5, 2007
Notre Dame dropped its first two games in the Stetson Invitational Friday and Saturday but looked like a different team as it sailed past No. 7 Nebraska Sunday.
Junior Brett Lilley led the Irish from the lead off position going 4-for-5 from the plate en route to the 16-6 victory over the Cornhuskers.
The Irish scored five times in the first inning and seven in the sixth. Freshman A.J. Pollock, back in the lineup at the No. 2 spot, hit 3-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored and an RBI.
“[Lilley and Pollock] were on base all the time – running the bases well,” Notre Dame coach Dave Schrage said. “They were real catalysts for us.”
With strength behind the plate from Lilley and Pollock, the Irish jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the first inning and never looked back.
Every starter for Notre Dame earned at least one RBI including big two-run plays from Matt Weglarz, Tony Langford and Ryan Connolly. Langford and Connolly each added two in the sixth inning to bring the lead to 13-5 – the highest scoring inning for the Irish, who racked up seven runs.
“We really executed offensively,” Schrage said. “We were able to get our bunting and running game going a little bit and we got some clutch hitting. We put pressure on [Nebraska] and they made some mistakes against us and that was a big factor in the win.”
Sophomore pitcher David Phelps gave up one earned run in his five-plus innings – Jake Opitz’s three-run homer over the rightfield fence. Phelps’ win was his second victory over a top-ranked opponent – he led the Irish from the mound as they defeated No. 12 Texas Christian Feb. 24.
Notre Dame posted three runs in the seventh to enact the 10-run mercy rule and end the game.
Sunday’s win over Nebraska marked the highlight of the Stetson Invitational for the Irish. Stetson rallied from a 4-0 deficit to take the 5-4 win Friday, and Iowa followed with an 8-1 victory Saturday.
“We played a great game Friday night and it was a tough heartbreaker to lose,” Schrage said.
The Irish posted four runs in the first inning Friday with doubles from Lilley and Ross Brezovsky, but that was the only action Notre Dame saw from behind the plate. Stetson remained steadfast and earned one run in each of the first three innings before finally posting two runs in the bottom of the seventh, giving the home team the go-ahead run.
Notre Dame struggled from the field as well. Right-hander Joey Williamson pitched only one inning – senior right-hander Dan Kapala relieved the junior to help the Irish protect their lead part way into the fifth inning.
Sophomore right-hander Brett Graffy was charged with the loss after he allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. Stetson’s Casey Frawley and Brian Pruitt each posted an RBI off Graffy for the win.
Notre Dame struggled again on Saturday against Iowa, falling 8-1.
“We came out flat on Saturday after that tough loss [Friday] and we talked a lot about resiliency and how to battle through adversity even though you lose a tough game and they responded in a great way [against Nebraska],” Schrage said.
Iowa scored in five of the first six innings before the Irish could rally to post a single run in the sixth. Iowa took the lead early finishing the match up in six innings with an 8-1 win after the game was called early due to heavy rain.
While Schrage was satisfied with the way the team played from behind the plate, he said he would like to see more consistency on both ends.
“Hopefully we’re getting our bats rolling a little bit,” he said. “But we need to show up our defense a little bit better yet. It will be good next weekend to get into a groove.”
The Irish will embark on a seven-game road trip over spring break.