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Baseball: Inches short loses game in extra innings

Chris Masoud | Monday, April 12, 2010

More than 1,000 fans were on hand to watch the series finale Sunday between Rutgers and Notre Dame and can attest to one of baseball’s oldest adages — it’s a game of inches.
Tied at six, junior shortstop Mick Doyle belted a deep drive to left field that could have been the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth, but the ball fell just inches short of the fence, into the glove of an outstretched Rutgers’ Pat Biserta, to send the game into extra innings. The Scarlet Knights scored in the top of the 11th to secure a 7-6 win and a series victory.
“When you hit a line drive and it ends up being an inch from ending the game and give us some dramatics, that’s just something that hasn’t happened for us this year that could turn it [season] around,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. “We haven’t had that.”
Although luck may have been on the Rutgers side of the ball, Notre Dame (11-19, 2-7 Big East) had several opportunities to come away with a victory. Senior pitcher Eric Maust (0-3) gave the Irish a chance from the mound with his best start of the season, allowing only five runs in eight innings, but picked up the no decision. He had two strikeouts and zero walks.
“That was more of how Eric is capable of pitching,” Schrage said. “He hasn’t pitched like that all year. That’s what he’s capable of doing. He kept the ball down, his mechanics were good, and that’s the Eric Maust we know.”
Notre Dame jumped on the board early following home runs from senior center fielder Brayden Ashdown and junior catcher Cameron McConnell in the second inning. Rutgers (17-13, 7-2) retook the lead in the fourth inning, but freshman third basemen Adam Norton doubled to left field to tie it in the bottom half of the frame.
With Maust dealing on the mound, senior left fielder Ryan Connolly hit a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning that looked to make the difference in the game. Yet Rutgers would not be denied, mounting a comeback in the eighth and ninth innings to tie the game for a second time.
“I thought we were going to win the game,” Schrage said. “I don’t think the ball bounced our way. I don’t think they exactly hit rockets in the ninth inning to get their hits, but the ball falls where it’s going to fall.”
The Irish had a golden chance to put the game away in the bottom of the seventh inning when senior first basemen Casey Martin and Ashdown reached base with two outs. Senior right fielder Billy Boockford singled to center, but Martin was thrown out on a close play at the plate.
“Your kids are only so resilient,” Schrage said. “The guys are feeling snake bitten. I can understand that. We need something good to happen to build off of, and we’re still waiting for it. As a coach you got to keep positive and got to keep them thinking they’re going to win.”
The Irish return to the field Tuesday to take on Chicago State with a 6:05 p.m. start.