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Baseball: Notre Dame rebounds with doubleheader sweep of WVU

Bill Brink | Monday, April 20, 2009

It was a rough 10-day stretch. The Irish had lost five of six, including a 19-3 stomping by West Virginia at Eck Stadium Friday.

But as the weather improved, so did Notre Dame, and the Irish took two of three from the Mountaineers this weekend by sweeping a doubleheader Saturday.

The Irish (22-14, 8-7 Big East) won 8-6 and 3-0 Saturday behind great pitching performances. Junior Eric Maust, after punting in the Blue-Gold game earlier in the afternoon, pitched nine scoreless innings and gave up five hits in the second game.

“When a team’s hitting .367 as a team that makes the performance more remarkable by Eric,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said.

Sophomore designated hitter David Casey and sophomore Mick Doyle each had two hits and an RBI in the game. Casey raised his average to .407 and has a 10-game hitting streak going. Schrage said Casey was the team’s hottest hitter and attributed it to his work ethic.

“I would bet if you walked over to the cages right now he’s probably in there hitting,” Schrage said. “He’s got a big heart, he wants to do well. The thing with David is he’s maturing as a hitter too.”

The Irish scored two in the second. Sophomore Golden Tate, who also saw time in the spring football game, doubled to right field. Senior shortstop Jeremy Barnes walked and Casey singled to score Tate. Junior David Mills then singled to score Barnes.

Schrage said he wasn’t sure when Tate would be available after the spring game and didn’t have him in the lineup, but Tate showed up in the locker room – in football pads – before the game. Schrage asked him he could play, and Tate said, “Yeah, put me in.”

“I think Golden thrives on these kind of things,” Schrage said. “He loves the limelight. He performs better in front of a lot of people.”

Mills walked to lead off the sixth inning and a hit-and-run single from Doyle sent him to third. Martin grounded into a double play, but Mills scored to make the score 3-0.

The Mountaineers held the Irish for the rest of the game, but couldn’t get anything from Maust. Maust improved his record to 5-2, allowed only singles, didn’t let anyone get past second base and lowered his ERA to 3.93.

The Irish got another complete game from sophomore Brian Dupra in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, an 8-6 win. Dupra has now thrown three straight complete games; he struck out three and walked one Saturday.

“[Maust and Dupra] both executed the game plan and they were hitting their spots,” Schrage said. “They were able to exploit some of West Virginia’s weaknesses.”

The Irish cranked out 16 hits in the game. Tate had three of those hits, scored a run and had an RBI. Martin went 3-for-4 and scored a run.

Mills doubled in the second inning and sophomore catcher Cameron McConnell drove him in to give the Irish an early lead. Tate scored from first in the second inning on Barnes’ double. Doyle gave the Irish a 3-0 lead when he hit his first career home run in the fourth inning.

The Irish doubled their lead in the fifth, when Casey doubled and scored on Doyle’s fly to right. Junior A.J. Pollock delivered a two-run single with the bases loaded to make the score 6-0.

The Mountaineers first scored in the sixth, when Justin Parks and Dan DiBartolomeo both doubled and Parks scored. Tobias Streich then doubled in DiBartolomeo to make the score 6-2. West Virginia scored in the seventh, but two-out RBI singles from junior Ryne Intlekofer and Tate made the score 8-4.

Parks made it interesting by hitting a two-run home run in the ninth, but Dupra got out of the inning. Dupra is now 4-4 with a 5.59 ERA.

The great pitching Notre Dame displayed Saturday hadn’t arrived in time for Friday’s game. Sophomore Cole Johnson, who had pitched well of late, suffered his first loss of the season, giving up 11 runs on 10 hits in five innings.

“He could not hit his spots at all. He was struggling with his location,” Schrage said. “His bread and butter pitch is his cutter, and for some reason on Friday it flattened out.”

The Mountaineers had 15 hits in the game, with DiBartolomeo responsible for three of them. Jarryd Summers picked up the win for West Virginia with a seven-inning, two-run outing.

Parks scored four times and drove in three runs and Jedd Gyorko had five RBIs for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia scored three runs in the first inning. Three consecutive singles gave the Mountaineers a 1-0 lead, and a double and RBI groundout made the score 3-0. Pollock doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the second inning for the Irish.

West Virginia scored four runs in the fourth and fifth innings and six in the seventh. Freshman Dustin Ispas, who came on in relief of Johnson, gave up six runs on three hits in 1 2/3 innings of work.

The Irish next face Michigan Tuesday on the road, and the Wolverines come to South Bend Wednesday before the Irish travel to Louisville over the weekend.

“I hope Saturday instills in them that they can beat anybody at any day,” Schrage said. “Hopefully we look back on Saturday as the turning point of the season.”