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Baseball: Local teams battle, fight cancer

Pat Stynes | Thursday, April 3, 2008

For most college baseball squads, mid-week games allow the younger and inexperienced players the chance to get reps in non-conference games. But Wednesday’s game was a different story – the game itself was about more than just the final score.

Notre Dame coach David Schrage’s wife, Jody, passed away due to liver cancer last January. Despite the unimaginable hardship of dealing with such a loss, and the burden of being a single father, Schrage chose not to take a leave of absence from the team, and instead chose to keep his commitment to his players and coach the Irish squad that season.

Last night, 2,337 fans attended the exhibition between the South Bend Silverhawks and the Irish – a portion of ticket sales went toward cancer research and the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation to fight Niemann-Pick Type C Disease.

“I just appreciate the Silverhawks to give us this opportunity to play,” Schrage said. “[Silverhawks President] Joe Kernan and [field manager] Mark Haley are both very classy individuals. The people of Michiana got a chance to put baseball in the spotlight tonight, and raise money for a great cause.”

Freshman Brian Dupra took the mound for the Irish, and from the first inning showed he was not shaken by the pressure. Dupra opened the game by striking out the side, effectively using his 92-mph fastball. In all three at-bats Dupra located the fastball for a first-pitch strike, and threw only 11 pitches in the inning.

“Coming back from the field Brian said that he should have signed his pro contract coming out of high school,” Schrage said. “He got hit a little bit in the second, but it was a good line and overall he played great.”

The Irish received even more production out of their talented freshman class, as they showed the team was good enough to compete with a minor-league squad. Evan Danieli threw a shutout inning, while Ryan Sharpley gave up one run but struck out two in an inning of work.

Freshman Matt Scioscia, hitless on the year entering the game, came up in a big way with a game-tying two-run double in the fifth inning, and classmate Cameron McConnell ripped an RBI double to the gap.

“It’s certainly a weight off my shoulders, it’s a relief to finally get the hit, get my feet wet a little bit, especially in a clutch situation like that,” Scioscia said. “It helps to stay close with a pro-team like this, it helps give us more confidence, a little bit more of a swagger.”

The Irish used six other pitchers throughout the rest of the game, getting scoreless innings from freshmen Todd Miller and Joe Spizzirri, sophomore Andrew Scheid, and senior Justin Gingerich. Junior Brett Graffy gave up two unearned runs, while classmate Sam Elam gave up one earned run in his outing. Dupra lead the team with four strikeouts in two innings of work.

Dupra gave up eight runs in his collegiate debut.

“It was cool to come in and pitch against minor leaguers, because you hear about all these guys signing pro-contracts and all that,” said Dupra. “But after the way my first college inning went and the way the first inning went tonight, it was tough to hold back a smile walking towards the dugout.”

The Irish will look to keep the momentum and the smiles going as they entertain Big East rival Rutgers at Frank Eck Stadium for a four game series beginning this Friday at 5:05pm. Junior David Phelps is slated to take the mound in the series opener.