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Baseball: Irish rout Western Michigan

Deirdre Krasula | Thursday, March 22, 2007

Notre Dame scored eight runs in the bottom of the fourth to jump ahead 13-3 and cruise to a 17-9 win over Western Michigan Wednesday at Eck Stadium.

The outburst was the third inning in which the Irish have driven in seven or more runs this season.

The win, with its season-high 17 runs, put Notre Dame just above .500 with an overall record of 10-9.

Freshman third baseman A.J. Pollock led the Irish offensively, going 5-for-6 from behind the plate. Notre Dame jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and never allowed the Broncos a chance to take the game.

“It was a great day to hit and everybody swung the bat well so that gets you fired up,” Pollock siad. “Hitting is contagious.”

Lilley lit the fire under the Notre Dame bats with a single as the team entered the bottom of the fourth with the 5-3 lead. The eight-run inning included two-run singles from Lilley, Jeremy Barnes and Ryne Intlekofer as well an unearned run apiece from Pollock and senior Danny Dressman.

Notre Dame coach Dave Schrage said Lilley serves an important leadership role.

“Brett is so consistent,” he said. “He comes everyday to the ballpark with a great attitude and works hard – you win a lot of games with Brett Lilley. Every time he comes he’s giving everything he’s got.”

The Irish extended their lead to 15-4 in the bottom of the sixth as freshman Austin Pearce drove in an RBI off his first career hit.

Western Michigan threatened in the top of the eighth but was unable to close in on the Irish lead. Freshman right-hander Steven Mazur gave up a two-run homer to Kyle Galbraith and a one-run single to Matt Abro before retiring from the mound.

Sophomore right-hander Brett Graffy took over in the middle of the inning. Bronco Kyle Gendron drove in one run off an error to close out the inning and bring Western Michigan within six. Those four runs would end the offensive game for the Broncos.

Cycling through two pitchers in one inning happened often during the offense-focused game. Sophomore left-hander Sam Elam started the game for the Irish. Graffy threw two innings from the mound and Andrew Scheid, Tony Langford and David Mills tallied an inning apiece – Mazur only saw action in the first part of the eighth inning. Tim Mowry started from the mound for Western Michigan, pitching 2.2 innings before the Broncos brought in six pitchers from their bullpen.

Using many pitchers in the midweek non-conference game allowed Notre Dame and Western Michigan to rest their arms, since both teams play in conference series this weekend.

The Irish responded to Western Michigan’s drive in the eighth with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Schrage noted the team’s ability to respond from behind the plate every time Western Michigan drew closer.

“I think our guys did a great job of answering back when Western Michigan would score,” he said. “I was very happy with how we hit the ball long.”

Even though the Broncos responded with strong offensive innings, Pollock said, the Irish were confident they would respond.

“We kept battling. We didn’t put up runs in just one inning, so that always keeps you into the game more,” he said. “And I think that carried over toward defense too – a game like [Western Michigan] kept everybody on their toes and ready for the next pitch.”

Notre Dame sealed the win with a no-run ninth-inning. Schrage said the team hopes to stay strong from behind the plate and tune up defensively as it prepares for its weekend series against South Florida. The Irish will look for strong showings from Lilley and Pollock again as they face tougher competition from the mound.

“Right now [Pollock’s] as hot as anybody and hopefully that will continue,” Schrage said.