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BASEBALL: Bickford steps up for Irish

Tom Dorwart | Friday, March 18, 2005

It’s a cliché in March basketball – “New heroes always step up.” That saying fits the Notre Dame baseball team’s victory Thursday over the Northern Illinois Huskies (3-9). Seldom-used senior lefthander Scott Bickford pitched perhaps the best innings of his Notre Dame career to allow his team to rally for a 10-6 win at Evansville’s Aces’ Classic.”I told the team after the game it was one of the highlights of my career at Notre Dame – watching how well Scott Bickford pitched today – because here’s a kid that hasn’t had that many opportunities in his career,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said. “He’s kept a good attitude, he’s worked really hard and today he came in and really saved the game for us.” “He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to rally. Here’s a kid that in his senior year is finally getting a chance, and he’s taking advantage of it. I’m really happy for him. I’m proud of him.” The third of four relievers used by Notre Dame, Bickford threw 2.1 shutout, one-hit innings and nabbed the victory for just the second win of his Irish career. The Irish (7-7) won back-to-back games for the second time this season. After trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom half of the eighth, the Irish bats came alive. Notre Dame erupted for a seven-run inning to take a 10-6 lead they would not relinquish. Senior shortstop leader Greg Lopez’s two-run single in the eighth kicked off the rally.Flawless pitching held off the Huskies the rest of the way. Ace closer Ryan Doherty mowed down the side in the Huskie ninth for his fourth save in five tries this season and seventeenth of his career. “He had that one rough outing against Dayton out in Arizona,” Mainieri said. “Other than that, he’s been pretty automatic, which is the way he was all year last year.” “I feel good about our bullpen. We just need to make sure we can get late into the game with the lead.” Lopez finished with three RBIs on the day, while sophomore catcher Sean Gaston, junior right-fielder and junior centerfielder Alex Nettey each had multiple-hit days. With Bickford and Doherty clicking and the Irish offense meshing, Mainieri believes the win – Notre Dame’s second in a row – could get the Irish rolling.”That was a great come-from-behind victory for us today,” Mainieri said. “I told the players after the game that most times during a season you can point to a game that really turns your season around, and we may look at this game at some point and say this is a game that really turned our season around.”It was a game in which all nine players on the field simply gelled.”When you rally from behind and pull out a game that looks like it’s lost, it does wonders for a team – the confidence and the camaraderie and the chemistry of the team – because it was a total team effort to do it,” Mainieri said. “Everybody chipped in.”