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Baseball: Irish drop two of three to Big Ten

Chris Masoud | Monday, March 1, 2010

After dropping the first two games of the Big Ten/Big East Tournament in blowout fashion, the Irish salvaged a much-needed win over Penn State 9-8 in 10 innings Sunday.

On a day plagued by bad defense, senior right fielder David Mills scored the winning run on a dropped fly ball off the bat of freshman third baseman Adam Norton.

Junior Todd Miller (1-0) picked up the win for Notre Dame (4-2), tossing 1 1-3 scoreless innings of relief. Although disappointed in his team’s overall performance in the tournament, Irish coach Dave Schrage said he’d take wins any way he could get them.

“We played three very similar games, we didn’t play very good defense,” Schrage said. “I know it’s their second weekend being outside. It was a high sky and very windy, tough playing fly balls. It was fitting that the game ended with a dropped fly ball. It was good to get a win today. 4-2 is a lot better than 3-3.”

The Irish opened the tournament with an 11-1 loss to Illinois (1-2) Friday, followed by a 10-2 defeat at the hands of No. 21 Ohio State (5-1) Sunday. Although the starting pitching failed to keep the Irish close in its first true test of the season, shoddy defense was responsible for a number of unearned runs. The Irish committed 13 errors in the three games.

“Our starting pitching did struggle,” Schrage said. “They’re good hitters, they were really tough. We had to make a lot of extra pitches because we were giving the team extra outs. I still think pitching is the strength of our team, so we need to start pitching more innings, pitch deeper into games so we don’t have to tax our bullpen.”

After erupting for 39 runs in the three-game season opener last weekend, the offense struggled to plate runners against Big Ten pitching, stranding a total of 36 runners on base. Nevertheless, Schrage said he is pleased with the way his hitters are seeing the ball this early in the season.

“I was really pleased with how we hit the ball yesterday and today. I liked our approach today,” Schrage said. “We just couldn’t get that one big hit or string of hits, but we were still hitting the ball well. Matt Scioscia was the best hitter on this trip, and Casey Martin stayed really hot.”

The reigning Big East Player of the Week, Martin is quickly emerging as the Irish threat on offense. The senior first basemen went 4-for-5 with a run scored against Illinois, while the junior designated hitter Scioscia went 2-3 with a run scored and two RBI.