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Baseball: Notre Dame drops two of three to start season

Michael Bryan | Monday, February 25, 2008

Despite escaping South Bend for the weekend, the Irish still couldn’t avoid gloomy weather – and gloomy results – in Clearwater, Fla.

After heavy rains at Jack Russell Stadium delayed play for nearly six hours Saturday, Notre Dame dropped two of three games at the Clearwater Classic.

The Irish opened their season with cold bats in a 6-2 loss to Liberty, managing just six hits against the Flames. Notre Dame struck first when senior Ross Brezovsky tripled, scoring shortstop Brett Lilley in the first inning, but the Irish would manage little offense after that.

Irish pitcher David Phelps gave up four runs to the Flames in the fourth. After Liberty loaded the bases with no outs, Flames third baseman David Giammaresi doubled, and two runs scored to give Liberty the lead. Liberty expanded its lead to 4-1 after a successful squeeze play and a single from center fielder Tim Rotola.

The Flames roughed up Phelps for two additional runs in the fifth, prompting Irish coach Dave Schrage to go to sophomore reliever Eric Maust. The start was the first time Phelps failed to go five innings in 16 appearances.

The bullpen combination of Maust and sophomore Steven Mazur produced 4 and 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, but the Notre Dame offense failed to take advantage. The Irish added a late run in the eighth, but managed just one hit in the final three innings.

Righty Clarence Nicely picked up the win for Liberty, allowing just one run in six strong innings.

Notre Dame 14, Iowa 13

(10 innings)

Senior shortstop Brett Lilley delivered a clutch extra-inning win for Notre Dame against Iowa on Saturday, singling home the two winning runs with two outs in the tenth inning.

After the Hawkeyes scored two runs in the top of the tenth to take a 13-11 lead, the Irish came from behind for the fourth time in the game. Junior Evan Sharpley doubled home a run to cut the lead to one, setting the stage for Lilley’s heroics.

In addition to his game-winning hit, Lilley also belted a three-run homer in the seventh. The senior went 3-for-4 on the day with three runs scored and 5 RBIs, and reached base five times.

Left fielder Ross Brezovsky added three RBIs for Notre Dame in the win.

The Irish offense took advantage of the Hawkeye’s control issues, scoring off many of Iowa’s eight walks.

After a back-and-forth start, Notre Dame jumped out to a 7-3 lead with five runs in the bottom of the fourth. After the Irish added another run in the fifth to stretch the lead to five, Iowa responded with a seven-run inning. The Hawkeyes capitalized on four Irish walks and an error to take an 10-8 lead.

Notre Dame reliever Kyle Weiland picked up the win after pitching three innings in relief.

Albany 12, Notre Dame 4

The Great Danes pounded the Irish for 15 hits and 12 runs in the final game of the Clearwater Classic.

Freshman pitcher Brian Dupra struggled in his Notre Dame debut, giving up eight runs on nine hits in three innings.

Albany grabbed the lead in the bottom of the first with an unearned run after a Brett Lilley error. The Irish responded quickly, scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning with RBI singles by junior Jeremy Barnes and senior Sean Gaston.

The Notre Dame lead was short-lived, however, as Albany lit up Dupra for five runs in the second inning. The Great Danes added three more runs in the fourth for an 8-2 lead.

The Irish offense generated a run in the bottom of the fourth, but a potential rally ended with sophomore A.J. Pollock’s bases-loaded groundout.

Albany scored four more runs in the seventh, putting the game out of reach. Reliever Dave Noble pitched two innings of scoreless relief for the Danes and picked up the win.

Brezovsky and freshman Golden Tate led the Irish offense with six hits apiece.

Notre Dame returns to action next weekend at the Papa John’s Classic in West Palm Beach, Fla.