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Baseball: Notre Dame drops two of three to Bearcats

Lorenzo Reyes and Fran Tolan | Monday, March 31, 2008

After Notre Dame’s Friday game with Cincinnati was postponed because of rain, the Irish and Bearcats played a doubleheader Saturday and finished up their series on Sunday.

The teams split the double-header before the Bearcats won the set with a 4-3 win in the rubber match.

Bearcats 5, Irish 3

Irish ace David Phelps threw 132 pitches but all his effort was canceled out by one swing of Cameron Satterwhite’s bat. The Cincinnati right fielder hit a towering home run in the eighth inning to give the Bearcats the lead for good as Notre Dame fell in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Lefthander Dan Osterbrock got the complete game win for Cincinnati, allowing just two earned runs on six hits. Phelps took the loss for the Irish despite going eight innings and striking out three batters.

“He gave us a chance to win,” Schrage said of Phelps. “We talked in [the dugout] and he wanted to go back out there in the eighth. I thought he pitched fine.”

With the game tied 3-3 in the eighth, Satterwhite capitalized on sloppy defense by the Irish and put Cincinnati on top. With one out and no runners on base, Irish shortstop Brett Lilley committed an error on a slow grounder off the bat of Tyler Goodro.

“We didn’t play good defense. We misplayed a ball in [center field] and misplayed a ball at [shortstop],” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. “When you’re facing a guy like Osterbrock, you have to make all the plays.”

After Goodro reached on the error, Michael Obyc was inserted as a pinch runner but simply needed to trot around the bases after Satterwhite’s blast. Satterwhite, the next batter, pulled an offering from Phelps over the trees behind the left-field fence to give the Bearcats a two-run edge.

Notre Dame manufactured a first-inning run and jumped out to an early lead. After Lilley was hit by Osterbrock’s first pitch, he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by designated hitter David Mills and advanced to third on a groundout. Junior second baseman Jeremy Barnes roped a two-out single up the middle to score Lilley and give Notre Dame the early edge.

But in the second inning, Satterwhite knocked in a run on a groundout to tie the contest at 1-1. The game continued in back-and-forth fashion as the Irish scored in the third and Cincinnati pushed a run across in the fourth.

Lilley led off the third with a single and Mills reached on an error. The next batter, Irish center fielder A.J. Pollock, walked to load the bases for Jeremy Barnes. The junior ripped a ground ball right at Bearcats third baseman Mike Spina, who knocked it down and fired home to cut down Lilley. But the Irish did not come away from the inning empty-handed as they scored on a double play. Ross Brezovsky followed Barnes with a deep flyout to right-center field that was tracked down by Bearcats centerfielder Tony Campana. Mills tagged up and scored easily from third base but Pollock was thrown out as he tried to score from second on the play.

“The play that Campana made on Brezovsky was huge and then the relay to get the guy at the plate was big, too, because I would send Pollock 10 out of 10 times,” Schrage said.

In Cincinnati’s half of the fourth inning, the team again put together a rally to tie the score as Satterwhite picked up the second of his four RBI. Bearcats second baseman Josh Harrison was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a wild pitch by Phelps. Later in the frame, Satterwhite sent a ball over Pollock’s head for a run-scoring double that tied the contest 2-2.

Thanks to the speed of Harrison and some timely hitting, Cincinnati took its first lead of the game in the sixth inning. Harrison legged out an infield hit and stole second and third after drawing countless pickoff attempts by Phelps. With two outs in the frame, Bearcats catcher Ryan Baker scorched a single into left field to knock in Harrison and give Cincinnati a 3-2 advantage.

It took just one inning for the Irish to counter. With one out, Lilley was plunked for the third time in the game to move just two beanings from tying the NCAA record. He has been hit 90 times.

“It’s just like a walk if I can get hit [by a pitch] and get on base to just get things going,” Lilley said. “I don’t mean to [get hit] but it happens a lot when I’m up there.”

Mills followed Lilley with a seeing-eye single that bounced off Harrison’s glove into shallow right field. Lilley moved to third on the play to bring up Pollock, who lined out to left field but got the ball deep enough to score Lilley and tie the game.

But Notre Dame could not muster another offensive surge as Osterbrock retired the Irish in order for the last two innings.

“He’s pretty good … he spotted up pretty well and he changed speeds a lot, and put his fastballs where he wanted them,” Lilley said of Osterbrock. “He’s tough to hit. I didn’t hit him too much, I just got hit a lot.”

Irish 4, Bearcats 3

Many people have speculated that the ejection of a coach can provide motivation for a team. Schrage provided some evidence in support of that claim in Saturday’s second game as his early exit preceded Notre Dame’s completion of a 4-3 win over the Bearcats.

After Irish starter Wade Korpi loaded the bases in the fifth inning, Bearcats left fielder Jamel Scott ripped a single into center field to knock in a run and cut the Notre Dame lead to 3-1.

Korpi then walked Cincinnati first baseman Kevin Johnson to push across another run. The normally good-natured Schrage, who was visibly irate with the home plate umpire’s call, was ejected from the game.

“I was arguing balls and strikes and should have been thrown out,” Schrage said. “You can’t argue balls and strikes.”

Korpi responded to the incident by notching a strikeout and flyout to end the inning and leave the Irish with a 3-2 edge. Schrage laughed as he said that “maybe” his ejection “lit a fire under” Korpi.

Korpi notched his fourth consecutive win while striking out four and surrendering two unearned runs in 6 and 1/3 innings of work.

“He picked us up. That’s the best way I can put it,” Schrage said of Korpi. “He’s a senior and he’s put together some nice games back-to-back.”

The Notre Dame offense gave Korpi an early cushion as it put together a two-out rally in the second inning. After Evan Sharpley and Jeremy Barnes were retired, Brezovsky smacked a single to left field and Irish catcher Sean Gaston reached base on an error. Right fielder Billy Boockford knocked in the first run of the game with a slow single to right. Greg Sherry then got a single that produced two runs – albeit thanks to some sloppy defensive play by Cincinnati. Satterwhite misplayed the hit, allowing both Gaston and Boockford to score and put the Irish ahead 3-0.

The Irish added a run in the sixth inning after Barnes led off by smashing a line drive to the wall for a double, Notre Dame’s first extra base hit of the double-header. Barnes moved to third on a wild pitch then scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Brezovsky.

The Irish bullpen duo of Steven Mazur and Kyle Weiland finished off the Bearcats and earned Notre Dame a split in the double-header.

“In the second game, we only had six hits. I’ll give our bullpen a lotta credit and Korpi,” Schrage said. “I think that was the key to the second game, shutting them down with good pitching.”

Mazur replaced Korpi in the seventh frame and tossed 1 and 2/3 innings. The righty gave up one run but struck out four and did not surrender a walk.

When the fire-balling Weiland entered the game in the ninth, the slew of scouts in attendance got their radar guns ready. The junior was unable to record a strikeout but did close out the victory.

Weiland got his 20th career save, tying the Notre Dame record. He gave up a two-out hit and a walk but eventually quelled Cincinnati’s last-gasp rally. Weiland got Dustin Alvey to ground out weakly to end the game. The Irish improved to 13-8-1 overall and 4-1 in Big East play.

But Schrage said the Irish were lucky to salvage the second game of the double-header.

“I think we were very fortunate to split today,” Schrage said. “We didn’t do a lotta things very well [even though] we had been playing well [recently].”

Bearcats 4, Irish 3

Below a cold and misty sky, Notre Dame’s chances to win the series came down to the last play of the game. With the Irish chances of winning looking bleak, the squad mounted a two-out rally that fell just short.

Bearcat junior Jake Geglein retired the first two batters of the ninth frame, looking to seal the victory and series for Cincinnati. Notre Dame, however, was on a mission to spoil the weekend for its Big East rival.

Mills delivered a two-out single to get on base. After a Geglein wild pitch allowed the sophomore to advance to second base, Pollock connected on a check-swing dribbler in the infield. With the game now seemingly over, Bearcat third baseman Spina failed to bare-hand the grounder, allowing the play to stay alive. As Mills approached third base, however, there was a miscommunication between Schrage, who was stationed at third, and the sophomore base runner. Cincinnati shortstop, freshman Chris Peters, adeptly got to the loose ball and fired home to senior catcher Ryan Baker.

With the game on the line, Baker hauled in the throw and successfully tagged out Mills, ending Irish hopes of a come-from-behind victory to take the series.

Schrage tried to make sense of the play at the plate, but couldn’t come up with any explanation as to why Mills ran past his sign.

“I don’t know if there was really any confusion,” Schrage said. “I’m not sure why he ran, but he did. I was just yelling ‘Right here, right here,’ but he just ran right past it. It’s a shame the game ended that way, but it did.”

With the close loss, and the pair of defeats to start the conference season at home, a certain amount of frustration is building within the team.

“It’s just frustrating that we lost two of three to open conference play at home,” Schrage said. “We’re in the top-10 in the nation in fielding, top in our conference in ERA, and seven of our nine batters are hitting over .300, and when you have all that, but don’t win games, it gets frustrating. It tells me that we’re not getting our playmakers to step up and get the big hit.”