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Baseball: Wild Night

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Irish second baseman Jeremy Barnes saw the ball squirt past Toledo catcher Sean Boley and took off as fast as he could for home plate.

Barnes slid safely across to give Notre Dame an 8-7 come-from-behind win in a thriller against the Rockets Tuesday at Frank Eck Stadium.

“I was proud of our guys tonight,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said.

Having watching a 7-5 lead slip away in the ninth due in part to his own error, Barnes led off the bottom of the inning with a double, took third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on the wild pitch to give Notre Dame the win.

The Irish (18-17, 4-7 Big East) have won five of their last six games.

“This is a momentum creating win,” a happy Barnes said after the game.

But Barnes was almost the goat rather than the hero.

Having already blown a 5-0 lead to the Irish and trailing 7-5 in the top of the ninth, the Rockets got two runs to force the game to continue. With one out, Toledo centerfielder Drew Hoisington singled to bring left fielder Jake Swint to the plate. Swint hit a bouncer to second that should have been a double play ball, but Barnes muffed it.

Hoisington, who advanced to third on the error, then scored on a wild pitch, while Swint scored on a double by third baseman Scott Boley.

The Irish, who faced a deficit of as many as five, improved to 2-13 in games they trailed by three or more.

Behind 5-4 in the eighth, Notre Dame burst out for three runs to take the lead. With one out, pinch hitter Eddie Mendiola singled, and shortstop Brett Lilley – who played in his 14th straight game without committing an error – was hit by a pitch. Third baseman A.J. Pollock hit a grounder to second, but Rockets second baseman Ryan Laude threw it into left field, and a run scored to tie the game at 5-5.

Toledo changed pitchers, bringing in right-hander Matt Meinberg, but Meinberg walked left fielder Ross Brezovsky to force in a run and give the Irish the lead. Meinberg was replaced immediately by right-hander Joe Roberts.

After a walk, first baseman Mike Dury blasted one deep to right, but Rockets right fielder Joel Visser caught it on the warning track. Pollock scored anyway on the sacrifice.

Notre Dame looked ready to blow the game wide open when centerfielder Danny Dressman roped the next pitch to left field, but Brezovsky got caught between third and home and was tagged out.

The Rockets built an early lead, striking first on a three-run home run by Hoisington in the top of the third. It was only the 11th home run the Irish have allowed this season and the first in the last nine games.

The Rockets added to their lead in the fifth. Visser slapped a double down the left field line, scoring Hoisington and Swint and putting Toledo up 5-0.

Irish starter Brett Graffy gave up five runs in his five innings pitched while striking out six batters.

Notre Dame finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth, beginning the comeback it would complete in the eighth. Designated hitter Matt Weglarz singled, took third on a throwing error and scored on a ground ball by Barnes to bring the Irish within four. Center fielder Danny Dressman, who reached on the error, scored when the next batter, catcher Ryan Smith, drove him in with a single.

The Irish cut into the lead again in the seventh. The first four batters of the inning all singled, scoring a run and driving Rockets reliever Chris Fields from the game.

After a strikeout, Dressman faced new pitcher Jeff Cinadr and hit a grounder to second. Toledo got the first out, but the Irish center fielder was safe at first and a run scored.

Barnes came up next and blasted one to deep left-center but left fielder Swint made a diving catch to save multiple runs and end the inning.

“That was one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen,” Schrage said. “We were kind of stunned.”