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ND nine lose third straight

Fran Tolan | Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Central Michigan pushed across six runs in the first inning and never looked back in an 8-4 triumph over Notre Dame at Frank Eck Stadium Tuesday.

Irish senior right-hander Jess Stewart, who came into the game with a 2.76 ERA in 10 appearances as a reliever this season, took the loss after giving up eight hits in the opening frame. The Chippewas sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning, with six different players knocking in a run. The game marked Stewart’s first start for the Irish since a March 9, 2005 loss to Coastal Carolina.

Senior first baseman Mike Dury got the Irish on the board in the bottom half of the first, hitting a two-run home run to left field after freshman third baseman A.J. Pollock drew a walk. The homer was Dury’s team-leading sixth and gave him 16 RBIs on the season.

Stewart retired Central Michigan in order in the second before Joey Williamson pitched three scoreless innings in relief.

“[Williamson] did a great job,” Irish head coach Dave Schrage said. “I thought it was his best outing of the season.”

But the Irish couldn’t claw back into the game and scored only twice more. They mounted rallies in the sixth and seventh innings, but in both cases their efforts were squashed before they could inflict enough damage to even the score.

“We were hitting into some hard luck today,” Schrage said.

With one out and the bases full in the sixth, Central Michigan third baseman Noah Lankford dived to stop a hard grounder off the bat of Irish left fielder Ryan Connolly, before stepping on third and firing to first to complete an inning-ending double play.

“Ryan couldn’t have hit that ball any harder,” Schrage said. “Things just weren’t falling for us.”

In the seventh, the Irish took advantage of two walks and two wild pitches to scratch out a pair of runs, but pinch hitter Ryan Smith grounded out with the bases loaded to end the threat.

“We’re still waiting for the two-out clutch hit,” Schrage said.

The Irish left 11 runners on base in the game after stranding 14 against South Florida Sunday.

“We’re getting enough guys on base, enough opportunities,” Schrage said. “Hopefully, things will even out for us.”

Senior right-hander Kurt Lauscher got the win for the Chippewas, working six-plus innings and surrendering four earned runs while striking out four.

Senior James Ricchio worked 2 1-3 scoreless innings to record the save. Central Michigan shortstop Jeff Helps went 2-for-4, including a two-run single in the eighth that sealed a win for the Chippewas after the Irish had cut the deficit to two in the seventh.