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Baseball: Five pitchers scatter three hits in shutout

Kyle Cassily | Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A seven-run second-inning explosion – the second consecutive home game with seven men plated in one frame – and a three-hit shutout propelled Notre Dame over Valparaiso 12-0 on Tuesday night at Frank Eck Stadium.

The Irish (13-8) collected 13 hits – seven in the second inning alone – and got behind a planned rotation of five young hurlers – three freshman, one sophomore and a junior – to scatter the three Crusader hits in separate innings. It was the fewest hits Notre Dame has allowed in a game since a 21-1 victory over Pittsburgh on May 16, 2005.

“The key of the game today was really the outstanding pitching, really the kiddie corps was out there throwing tonight,” Irish head coach Paul Mainieri said of his rookie aces.

Sophomore David Gruener started the game on the mound for the Irish, before being relieved after three innings of one hit, one walk, three-strikeout work. Freshmen Brett Graffy, David Phelps and Sam Elam threw five innings – two innings each for Graffy and Phelps, one for Elam – before junior Mike Dury closed out a 10-pitch, hitless ninth.

“It played out exactly as we had hoped,” Mainieri said of the pitching workload. “We have two mid-week games. This is when these young pitchers have to get the experience so that when we really need them down the line we’re not all of a sudden throwing them out there for the first time.”

Valparaiso (2-13) managed only two innings from starter Dallas Cawiezell (eight hits, six earned runs, one strikeout) before turning the ball over to a platoon of four relievers, who allowed four hits and four runs in seven innings of work.

The Irish hitters batted around the order in the second inning and left the frame with an 8-0 lead. Senior centerfielder Alex Nettey collected his 100th career hit and senior left fielder Matt Bransfield sent home his 100th career RBI in the seven-run deluge.

Shortstop Greg Lopez laid down a bunt with two men on base to score Nettey from third for the 2-0 advantage to open the floodgates. After a Cody Rizzo fly out, third baseman Brett Lilley singled in Dury – who had reached base on a double down the right field line – on a line shot to right for the 3-0 lead.

A Danny Dressman RBI single was followed immediately with a Jeremy Barnes RBI double to left centerfield to put the Irish up 5-0. Bransfield plated a run with a sacrifice fly and was followed by consecutive RBI singles by Ross Brezovsky and Nettey to round out the inning at 8-0. Nettey was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run on the game.

“It was good to see some guys come through with some real clutch hitting, and I think we showed that we are capable of being a good offensive team,” Mainieri said of the lively bats. “When everybody is clicking and everybody is swinging the bats the way that they can, we can back this up now with tomorrow’s game and do it through the week.”

The Irish opened the first inning with a run off a Bransfield single to right centerfield and Barnes on second. It was the sixth consecutive game in which the Irish have scored a first-inning run. Notre Dame has outscored opponents 22-5 in the first frame this season.

“In all honesty, with us not being a home run-hitting team by scoring early in the game and taking the lead, it allows us to use a squeeze bunt early there in the game – we hit and ran a couple of times,” Mainieri said. “We have to try to manufacture some runs because we don’t have an enormous amount of power in our lineup.”

Notre Dame scored again in the sixth inning on a single to centerfield by Eddie Smith, who filled in at second base for Brezovsky.

A three-run eighth on Crusader sophomore hurler Aaron Rank rounded out the Irish tally. Smith and Nettey took consecutive walks a Dury was hit by a pitch – all with the bases loaded – sending three runners home for the 12-0 final. Freshman Eddie Mendiola and sophomore Chris Soriano were sent home by the walks after reaching base on back-to-back line drive singles, and Bransfield was walked home after he reached his base on balls.

“If they’re hitting it, I’d rather have them hitting it than us walking them – which happened when we allowed a sophomore to come in at the very end so we could give him an inning.” Valparaiso head coach Paul Twenge said.

The Irish are in action again today against Western Michigan in a 5:05 p.m. game at Frank Eck Stadium.