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Baseball: Rally capped

Brendan Bell | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

With the crack of Notre Dame freshman shortstop Kevin DeFilippis’ bat during the eighth inning, the Irish took lead over Butler and earned a 6-5 victory while snapping a four-game losing streak.

“I felt like we had the opportunity to put together a really good inning in the eighth,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “Kevin, who looked really good in his previous at bat, came through with a big hit there for us to give us the lead.”

Notre Dame (23-20, 9-9 Big East) first put runs on the board in the third inning when junior second baseman Frank DeSico scored on freshman outfielder Ryan Bull’s RBI double. Bull then came home after a balk by Butler’s pitcher, and sophomore first baseman Trey Mancini hit a solo shot to put Notre Dame’s lead at 3-0. Junior righthanded pitcher
Patrick Veerkamp started the game for the Irish and threw more than three shutout innings to give Notre Dame a cushion early on.

The lead was not enough, though, as Butler (20-25, 8-13 Horizon) responded in the following inning by getting to Veerkamp through errors by the Irish defense. With the bases loaded for the Bulldogs, an RBI single brought two runs home. An errant throw to first caused two more runs to score and another single put the score at 5-3 in favor of Butler.

In the bottom of the eighth inning the Irish still found themselves down 5-3, but rallied behind a series of hits and small-ball tactics to score three runs against the Bulldogs.

“We came through at that point, there was a course of the year when we had been sort of streaky and we talked a lot about it, and today had timely hitting,” Aoki said.

Irish junior catcher Joe Hudson started the rally with a single, followed by another single by sophomore outfielder Alex Robinson. Then, junior centerfielder Charlie Markson laid down a bunt that caused havoc for the Bulldogs, as the pitcher overthrew the first baseman and allowed another run to score. A second sacrifice bunt knotted the score at 5-5.
Finally, DeFilippis knocked in the go-ahead single to make it 6-5.

“It would have been tough to extend that losing streak to five games and I hope that this is a thing we can build off of and use for the future,” Aoki said.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Sean Fitzgerald came in to relieve Veerkamp and threw five shutout innings, giving the Irish a chance to catch up to the Bulldogs. Aoki said without Fitzgerald, the eighth inning rally would not have had the same significance in the game.

“If they scored any more runs when Sean had been pitching it would have been very hard for us to come back,” Aoki said. “He was able to get us back in our dugout, and I think he thoroughly dominated the game for us. It was sorely needed.”

The Bulldogs did not let up after conceding the lead in the eighth. In Butler’s last at-bats, the Bulldogs put two men on base and had runners in scoring position. Irish sophomore closer Dan Slania managed to force a ground ball that resulted in a double play to end the game, earning his ninth save of the season.

“Dan came in and even though he was a little bit behind in some of the counts, he found a way to close it out,” Aoki said.
Notre Dame will now focus its attentions on the upcoming series against Villanova in Plymouth, Pa., starting Friday afternoon.

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