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Baseball: Red Storm take two of three, tied with ND atop Big East

Lorenzo Reyes, Fran Tolan and Mike Bryan | Monday, April 28, 2008

No. 24 Notre Dame dropped the first two games of its weekend series to St. John’s before recovering to win in Sunday’s matinee match-up.

The Irish (28-12-1, 13-5 Big East) and Red Storm (31-10, 13-5 Big East) are now tied atop the conference standings.

“[Sunday’s game] was a must-win for us,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. “We could’ve woken up [Monday] and been in fourth place and two games behind [St. John’s] … so to be honest with you, [Sunday] was a must-win game.”

St. John’s 10, Notre Dame 3

Heading into the top of the sixth, the Irish clung to a 3-1 lead, looking to get the weekend series started off on the right foot. Just 20 minutes later, it was a completely different story, as the contest soon was out of Notre Dame’s grasp.

After giving up the game’s first run in the top of the fifth, Notre Dame picked up three runs of their own after a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases. Senior leftfielder Ross Brezovsky delivered a sacrficie fly and sophomore Billy Boockford hit a two-run single to give the Irish a 3-1 lead.

Those were the only runs Notre Dame would score all game, as the Red Storm exploded on the offensive side of the ball in the last three innings.

After Notre Dame’s junior ace David Phelps retired the inning’s first two hitters, Chris Anninos and freshman third baseman Greg Hopkins delivered back-to-back home runs to tie the game 3-3 and begin a downward spiral for the Irish. Notre Dame allowed five home runs, marking the first time the feat has been done at Frank Eck Stadium since Miami achieved it on April 2, 1994.

St. John’s scored once more in the sixth before adding another pair of solo home runs in the seventh and a three-run blast in the eighth.

Phelps was tagged with the loss, giving up six earned runs on 12 hits on 6 and 2/3 innings of action. The junior also struck out one batter and allowed one walk.

In the contest, Brezovsky extended his career high hitting streak to 19 games, going 1-for-3. One of Notre Dame’s main downfalls was the inability to drive in base runners, as it stranded six runners, four of which were in scoring position over the first four innings.

St. John’s 6, Notre Dame 4

The Red Storm capitalized on several Irish miscues late in Saturday’s game, winning their second straight over Notre Dame.

Notre Dame could not take advantage of a solid start from senior pitcher Wade Korpi, who gave up just five hits and two earned runs in 7 and 1/3 innings in a no-decision.

The game began as a pitcher’s duel between Korpi and St. John’s southpaw George Brown, who entered the game with an 8-0 record. Brown shut down the Irish offense over the first five innings, allowing just two hits and no runs.

The Red Storm took the early lead in the top of the second, touching up Korpi for two runs on a walk and two doubles. After giving up the early 2-0 lead, Korpi retired the next 10 St. John’s hitters.

The Irish finally broke through against Brown in the bottom of the sixth, getting their first runner in scoring position after junior Casey Martin and freshman Greg Sherry had back-to-back infield hits. Sophomore designated hitter David Mills came through with a clutch two-out single to score the first Notre Dame run and cut the lead to 2-1.

Junior second baseman Jeremy Barnes then led off the bottom of the seventh with an opposite field home run, tying to game 2-2. The Irish had a chance to grab their first lead of the game later in the inning, but Brezovsky was called out at the plate trying to score from second on senior catcher Sean Gaston’s single.

Notre Dame committed two errors in the eighth to allow St. John’s to regain the lead. Barnes dropped a pop-up to allow Red Storm second baseman Gino Matias to reach second base. Matias then came around to score when Brezovsky misplayed a single to left.

Notre Dame knotted the game back up at 3-3 with a clutch RBI single by sophomore outfielder A.J. Pollock in the eighth. The Irish defense, however, let St. John’s take back the game in the ninth.

“It’s tough,” Schrage said, “I thought we were patient and battled back and had a good opportunity to win the game.”

With junior closer Kyle Weiland on the mound, the Red Storm put men on first and second with two infield hits. On a tough groundball to third Sherry could not pull the ball out of his glove in time, allowing a run to score. Then a high fly ball down the left field line landed between three Irish players, scoring two more.

“We catch those balls and we win,” Schrage said. “I don’t know what happened.”

Brezovsky extended his hitting streak to 20 games in the ninth with a double, and came around to score and cut the lead to 6-4. But St. John’s closer Colin Lynch struck out junior Evan Sharpley to end the game, also picking up the win.

Notre Dame 8, St. John’s 4

Despite an unusually early first pitch at noon Sunday, the Irish bats woke up in a hurry and chased Red Storm starting pitcher Jared Yecker from the game before the end of the third inning. Notre Dame tagged Yecker for three runs, providing a sizable cushion for Irish starter Eric Maust.

“They always say hitting is contagious so when you got guys at the top of the order and the bottom of the order hitting well, that’s all you can ask for,” Brezovsky said. “All it takes is one guy to have a good at bat and get a hit and it starts rolling and all of a sudden you have 13 hits like we did today.”

When he stroked a single to right field in the fifth inning, Brezovsky extended his hitting streak to 21 games, which is tied for the longest by a Notre Dame player since 1995.

“I could care less about hitting streaks as long as we’re winning games,” Brezovsky said. “It feels good to get a win the day after losing two in a row.”

Brezovsky’s hit put men on first and second before Boockford drilled a two-run double into left-center to give Notre Dame a 5-0 advantage.

The lead was more than enough for Maust, who retired the leadoff batter in seven of eight innings and ran his record to 5-1.

“He’s a bulldog. He goes out and gives it his all every outing and we have a lot of confidence in him,” Brezovsky said.

Barnes was one of four Irish hitters with multiple hits in the contest.

Irish senior right-hander Tony Langford worked the final 1 and 1/3 innings and did not surrender a run, lowering his ERA to 1.10.