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Schrage takes win No. 500 in series finale over Rutgers

Fran Tolan | Monday, April 30, 2007

Notre Dame won its third straight Big East series this weekend, taking two of three from host Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. – and Irish coach Dave Schrage earned his 500th career collegiate win on his birthday.Schrage, the first-year Irish coach who turned 46 Sunday, said he will never forget the milestone triumph.”It’s special to [win your 500th game] on your birthday, for Notre Dame, in the fashion we did today,” Schrage said. “It’s something I’ll remember forever. It was just a great win.”The teams traded blowouts in their doubleheader Saturday before the Irish took the rubber game in a thriller Sunday.The Irish improved to 24-19 overall and 8-9 in conference play, moving them into a sixth-place tie with Cincinnati in the Big East standings with just three series to play before the conference tournament.”This is what we needed to do,” Schrage said. “You want to be playing your best baseball when it comes close to tournament time.”Rutgers, meanwhile, fell to 25-16 overall and 13-5 against Big East foes, dropping out of first place in the league standings for the first time in nearly a month. The Scarlet Knights exited the weekend tied for second in the conference with Louisville, a game behind league-leader St. John’s.

Notre Dame 15, Rutgers 3Irish sophomore David Phelps ran his record to 7-3 while he gave up three runs in seven innings and the productive Irish offense plated 15 runs on 13 hits.Phelps’ earned-run average (1.64) rose slightly during the contest, but it remains among the lowest in the Big East. The right-hander scattered seven hits and struck out seven without walking a batter.”[Phelps has] been just outstanding for us,” Schrage said.”He’s really taken hold of that number-one spot [in the rotation] and pitched like you’re supposed to.”Irish shortstop Brett Lilley and sophomore rightfielder Ryan Connolly each reached base five times, while fifth-year catcher Matt Weglarz provided pop from the cleanup spot, hitting his third home run and racking up five RBIs.The Irish plated one run in the first inning and two more in the second, before blowing the game open in the fourth. Senior centerfielder Danny Dressman led off the fourth with a single that rebounded off the glove of Rutgers third baseman Tim Querns, sparking a Notre Dame rally in which six runs were scored before the side was retired. The Irish took advantage of five more hits, a walk and an error by Scarlet Knights shortstop Todd Frazier to build a 9-0 lead for Phelps.Phelps surrendered two home runs but little else to the Rutgers offense that boasted five starters who came into the contest with batting averages over .300.Scarlet Knights catcher Frank Meade hit a solo home run in the fifth and Frazier hammered a two-run blast in the seventh.But the Irish pushed across three runs in each of the final two innings to put the game even further out of reach.

Rutgers 7, Notre Dame 0In the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader, Rutgers senior Steve Healing worked the complete game, scattering seven hits and striking out two Irish batters. The right-hander did not surrender a walk.”Our offense was great in game one, but they really shut us down in game two,” Schrage said.Sophomore second baseman Jeremy Barnes was the only Irish player with multiple hits in the game.Irish sophomore right-hander Kyle Weiland suffered his first loss of the season as he surrendered four runs on five hits and three walks over 4.2 innings.Rutgers jumped on Weiland early, scoring a run on Meade’s double in the second inning. In the fifth, the Scarlet Knights plated three more on three hits, including a two-out RBI double by catcher Jon Gossard.The lead was more than enough for Healing, who improved his record to 6-3 on the season.

Notre Dame 6, Rutgers 4The Irish gave Schrage his 500th victory of his NCAA career when they came back from a 3-2 eighth-inning deficit to win in front of a record crowd of 1,024 at Bainton Field Sunday afternoon. Leftfielder Ross Brezovsky gave Notre Dame the lead when he doubled home Connolly and third baseman A.J. Pollock with two outs in the eighth. But Gossard continued his big weekend for Rutgers by hitting a solo home run off junior Joey Williamson to tie the score.Despite giving up the homer to Gossard, Willamson picked up the win after Notre Dame pushed across two more runs in the ninth. Dressman led off the frame with an infield single then scored when Barnes tripled to centerfield.”Barnesy hitting that triple gave us a huge lift,” Schrage said.Barnes scored an insurance run for the Irish on senior first baseman Mike Dury’s sacrifice fly.But the two-run cushion proved unnecessary as freshman Eric Maust and sophomore Sam Elam combined to strike out the side in a scoreless ninth. After Maust surrendered a walk and a single, Elam relieved him with two outs and struck out Rutgers first baseman Tom Edwards to end the game. It was Elam’s first save of the season.Notre Dame took the early lead, scoring a run in each of the first two innings.In the second, Irish freshman designated hitter Ryan Miller hit a solo home run, his second round-tripper of the season.