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Baseball: Streak comes to an end with 11-8 loss to Bowling Green

Kyle Cassily | Thursday, April 27, 2006

Everything good must come to an end.

Notre Dame could not avoid this reality Wednesday as it saw its 23-game win streak snapped with an 11-8 loss to Bowling Green at Frank Eck Stadium.

No. 8 Notre Dame (33-9) fought back from a seven-run deficit in the second inning, but timely Falcon fielding shut the lid on several late-inning rallies to finish the hope of 24 straight.

The loss came one game after the Irish saw another lengthy streak fall victim to the averages of baseball. First baseman Craig Cooper’s 0-for-4 day at the plate against Purdue Tuesday ended a stretch where the Irish senior hit in 21 consecutive games.

The Irish last lost over a month ago – an 8-3 defeat to Georgetown Mar. 25 in the first game of a doubleheader and the opening game of their Big East season slate – and in the meantime set the Notre Dame record for consecutive wins and secured the longest win streak in collegiate baseball so far this season.

Notre Dame swept three-game series with Big East rivals Pittsburgh, South Florida, St. John’s and Rutgers and banged out 11 mid-week non-conference wins to vault from outside the national polls to No. 8 within four weeks. Ten different Irish pitchers earned wins during the streak, while the offense outscored opponents 208-79 during the stretch.

“It’s been a great ride,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said after the loss. “It just wasn’t our day. In a long season you’re going to have some days like this and unfortunately today was our day to have a bad day.”

Bowling Green (22-17) batted around against Irish starter David Gruener (1-1) in the second inning, scoring seven runs on six hits and three Irish errors. The sophomore southpaw lasted 1 1-3 innings and surrendered five earned runs.

“He really wasn’t hitting his spots, he got some pitches up in the zone,” Mainieri said. “Tip your hat to Bowling Green, they hit them. It put us in a big hole right out of the gate.”

The second inning Falcon rally got a kick-start when Irish second baseman Ross Brezovsky made a diving stop but overthrew Cooper with a man already on first.

The Falcons immediately capitalized with an RBI single up the middle from first baseman Marty Baird. They continued to pound Gruener with two doubles for three runs sandwiched around second baseman Chris Gacom’s two-run bloop single over third base.

Bowling Green catcher Josh Stewart extended the lead to 7-0 on a double error by Notre Dame. Stewart ripped a bouncing grounder through shortstop Jeremy Barnes that scored Kurt Wells when Alex Nettey bobbled the ball in centerfield. Notre Dame had three errors on the game.

“The only thing I said to them was ‘This is one of those games that you have an opportunity throughout the year that you can grab some headlines,'” Falcons coach Danny Schmitz said of his pre-game pep talk to his players. “That’s all I said to the kids. If you win the game you’re going to grab headlines, so hopefully the kids will receive some headlines tomorrow.”

By the ninth inning the Irish had closed the gap to 9-7, but Bowling Green refused to lie down with a two-run ninth inning. Shortstop Ryan Shay’s run-scoring single followed an RBI double by first baseman Brandon McFarland to extend the Falcon lead to 11-7.

Notre Dame threatened with one run in the home half of the ninth when Cooper doubled to right centerfield. But Lilley flied out and Jeremy Barnes struck out to end the short-lived comeback.

“Notre Dame, there’s no doubt about that they’re a top-10 team – and they scared the heck out of me,” Schmitz said. “They can really swing the bats.”

Stellar Bowling Green defense took away several hits from the Irish over the course of the game.

In the fifth inning Cooper hit a dying fly ball to right field that Falcon fielder Alex Foster caught with a shoestring catch – a safe landing would have scored Rizzo from second base.

Gaston ran through a stop sign at third base in the sixth inning that led to the final out. Left fielder Matt Bransfield doubled to the left field fence but the relay throw nailed Gaston at home despite his leaping slide over the right side of the base path.

Then in the eighth inning Brezovsky lined a hard-hit ball up the middle with men on first and second and two outs. It would have scored a runner had Shay not made a diving grab to secure the last out at second base.

“It was just one of those days, they made a couple of great plays,” Mainieri said. “There’s three runs right there, if they don’t make those plays.”

The Irish cut into the Bowling Green lead with runs in five of the last six innings, but came up short after the Falcons added runs of their own in the fifth and ninth innings.

Irish catcher Cody Rizzo got the first Notre Dame run of the game on an RBI groundout to second base with the bases loaded and no one out in the fourth inning. Third baseman Brett Lilley followed suit with the same play for a run two batters later.

Right fielder Danny Dressman concluded the three-run fourth-inning stand on an RBI single to right field to cut the Falcons lead to 7-3.

The Falcons opened the lead to 9-3 in the top of the fifth with RBI singles to left and centerfield by pinch hitter Brian Hangbers and Gacom.

Rizzo pushed an opposite field single to left for a run in the fifth and designated hitter Sean Gaston plated a run in the sixth with an RBI single up the middle to cut the score to 9-5.

A two-run Irish seventh inning narrowed the lead to 9-7 on back-to-back RBI groundouts with runners in scoring position by Rizzo and Cooper.

The Irish travel to Storrs, Conn. this weekend for a three game Big East series with Connecticut.