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Baseball: Irish take series from Mountaineers

Chris Khorey, Fran Tolan, Deirdre Krasula | Monday, April 23, 2007

It was two steps forward and one step back for Notre Dame this weekend.

The Irish extended their season-long win streak to five with victories Friday and Saturday over West Virginia, but then saw that streak end Sunday against the Mountaineers in a conference series at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame (21-18, 6-8 Big East) now sits in seventh out of twelve Big East teams.

Notre Dame 5

West Virginia 2

In Notre Dame’s victory over West Virginia Friday, Irish sophomore David Phelps accomplished what few have been able to this season.

The right-hander slowed down a Mountaineers’ lineup that featured eight starters with averages over .300 heading into the contest.

Phelps threw 144 pitches in nine innings of work, striking out six and surrendering just two earned runs.

“He’s our best guy right now,” Schrage said. “And we’re going to ride our best guy.”

The Irish did ride Phelps, even after he surrendered a two-run, two-out rally in the third inning and ran up his pitch count as the game wore on.

“He had that look in his eye like he wanted the ball,” said Schrage. “So we kept letting him go out there.”

Phelps held the Mountaineers hitless over the first two innings but ran into trouble in the third. After second baseman Jason Pape singled with one out, Phelps got center fielder Adam White to fly out to center.

But West Virginia came up with a pair of key two-out hits to take the early lead. Shortstop Tyler Kuhn stroked a two-out triple to the fence in right center field to plate the first run of the contest. Then left fielder Justin Jenkins, who came into the game with a .429 batting average, lined a single up the middle to score Kuhn for the 2-0 lead. Phelps surrendered one more single before striking out first baseman Jordan Yost to end the inning.

But the Irish put together a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the third to even the score. After Mountaineers starter Levi Maxwell retired the first two batters, he appeared to be headed for another scoreless inning before the Irish bats finally came alive.

Shortstop Brett Lilley and third baseman A.J. Pollock both reached on singles to keep the inning alive. Left fielder Ross Brezovsky followed with a run-scoring single up the middle to cut the deficit to one. The Irish then knotted the score at two when Mountaineers second baseman Jason Pape misplayed a grounder by Irish catcher Matt Weglarz. Pollock, who had gone to third on the Brezovsky hit, scored his 22nd run of the season on the error.

Phelps got back on track after the rocky third and the score remained deadlocked until the sixth, when the Irish finally struck again. Dury led off the inning with a double over the head of center fielder Adam White. Dressman immediately followed with a double down the right field line to plate Dury and give Notre Dame the 3-2 lead. Barnes then reached base when first baseman Jordan Yost booted his grounder and let the ball roll into right field, allowing Dury to score for the 4-2 edge.

But Barnes and the Irish were not finished yet as they took advantage of another West Virginia defensive miscue to make the score 5-2. With Irish designated hitter Ryan Smith at the plate, Barnes stole second and took third on a throwing error by Mountaineers catcher Justin Parks. Smith then knocked in Barnes with a groundout to second base.

“We took advantage of their mistakes,” Schrage said. “I’m happy with the way we came back.”

The three-run cushion gave Phelps a noticeable boost on the mound as he retired nine of the last 10 Mountaineers batters he faced.

“I’d have loved one [run] but [the offense] got me three, which was huge,” Phelps said.

Phelps recorded four strikeouts in the final three innings, including two to close out the game.

Notre Dame 17

West Virginia 6

Notre Dame opened up an offensive game early against West Virginia Saturday. Dressman started the Irish drive with a single down the left field line, and Dury followed up with a two-run homer to give the Irish the early 2-0 lead. Within the next 10 minutes, two more Irish batters got on base and Pollock added another home run to bring the Notre Dame lead to 6-0.

The Mountaineers responded to Notre Dame’s second with a strong showing in their half of the third. Irish pitcher Kyle Weiland held West Virginia to just two hits in the first two innings, but the Mountaineers were able to break loose in the third. West Virginia drove in three runs off four hits.

The bats didn’t quit for the Irish against West Virginia pitcher Matt Yurish in the bottom of the third. Dury singled and Smith walked before Trent Ridgley relieved Yurish from the mound.

A pitching change couldn’t stop the Irish at the plate, and Pollock doubled to drive in a run before Matt Weglarz stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. Weglarz smacked a grand slam, his second home run of the season, to bring the score to 11-3.

Notre Dame went on to explode for another offensive flurry in the bottom of the sixth. Jeremy Barnes hit a home run to lead off the inning and bring the round tripper tally to four for the Irish. Pollock added two RBIs in the inning and Brezovsky and Weglarz added one apiece before West Virginia finally retired the side.

West Virginia’s last glimmer of hope came in the top of the ninth inning. Mountaineer catcher Mike Schmidt’s doubled to right center field to drive in two runs.

West Virginia 16

Notre Dame 7

West Virginia reliever Chris Enourato allowed just one run in 5.2 innings as the Mountaineers took the third game of a Big East conference series with Notre Dame Sunday.

Enourato, who entered the contest for starter Kenny Durst in the fourth inning with his team trailing 6-5, allowed just three hits and earned the win for his long-relief performance.

“He threw his slider for strikes,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said of Enourato. “It kept us off-balance.”

The Mountaineers banged out 20 hits off four Irish pitchers. Right-hander Dan Kapala took the loss for Notre Dame.

The 16 runs were the most allowed by Notre Dame at home since 2001.

West Virginia put the first run on the board when center fielder Adam White singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Austen Markel.

Notre Dame bounced right back in the bottom of the inning, getting its first four batters on base and scoring three runs.

The Irish added to their lead in the bottom of the second on a monster solo home run by designated hitter Ryan Smith.

West Virginia responded in the top of the fourth, tying the game on a bases-clearing double by first baseman Jordon Yost and taking the lead 5-4 when a throwing error by Pollock allowed Yost to score.

The lead didn’t last long. Center fielder Danny Dressman singled to lead off the inning and scored when Mountaineers left fielder Justin Jenkins bobbled a base hit by first baseman Mike Dury. Dury scored one batter later on a single by Smith to give the Irish the lead back, 6-5, and force Durst from the game after just 3.1 innings.

But once again the team couldn’t keep a lead. The Mountaineers went up 7-6 in the top of the fifth on a two-run single by Yost.

The Irish evened the game in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Brett Lilley, but West Virginia went back up again in the seventh, this time on a squeeze bunt by designated hitter Trent Ridgley that scored Jenkins. The Mountaineers added two more runs in the inning on an RBI double by third baseman Vince Belnome and an RBI single by catch Mike Schmidt.

West Virginia knocked in another insurance run in the eighth on consecutive doubles by Jenkins and right fielder Austin Markel.

Notre Dame loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but Brezovsky flew out to center to end the threat.

The Mountaineers added five more runs in the ninth to provide the final margin.