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Baseball: Declawing the Cougars

Michael Bryan | Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Entering Tuesday’s game ranked for the first time this season, No. 24 Notre Dame looked every bit a top-25 team in a 12-2 route of Chicago State at Eck Stadium.

Freshman Brian Dupra gave up just two runs in seven innings and the Irish offense exploded for seven extra base hits in the win, including three homeruns.

Chicago State entered the away game with a woeful 4-32 record, but the Cougars hung with the Big East leading Notre Dame through the first four innings.

“This is probably the best Chicago State team I’ve played against in ten years,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. “I give them a lot of credit.”

Notre Dame manufactured a run with some small ball in the bottom of the first, beginning with senior leadoff hitter Brett Lilley getting plunked by the 100th hit by pitch of his career. The shortstop then stole third base after advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore designated hitter David Mills. Sophomore outfielder A.J. Pollock then lined a pitch into centerfield to drive home Lilley and put the Irish on the board 1-0.

Cougars senior pitcher Chris Goya managed to keep Notre Dame quiet for the next three innings, and appeared to be in contention for his first win of the season with his team only down a run.

The Irish broke through against Goya in the fifth, however, punishing the Chicago State pitcher with three extra-base hits. Freshman catcher Cameron McConnell doubled to lead off the inning, and Lilley then blasted the first pitch from Goya over the right field fence for his second homer of the year.

Schrage was impressed with Lilley’s all-around performance in the game.

“Brett Lilley had a great day, he got hit by a pitch, made a diving catch in a clutch situation, and had a homer,” said Schrage.

Mills then hammered a pitch to the wall in center field, speeding around the bases for a triple. A Pollock sac fly plated Mills for the third run of the inning, extending to lead to 4-0.

The Cougars answered back in the top of sixth, finally touching up Dupra for four hits and two runs in the inning to cut the Irish lead to 4-2.

Notre Dame broke the game open in the bottom of the inning with seven runs, chasing Goya from the game. Lilley singled home two runners for his third and fourth RBI on the day, and senior left fielder Ross Brezovsky extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a single.

With the lead already extended to 8-2, junior first baseman Evan Sharpley hit his team-leading ninth home run of the year with two aboard. Sharpley crushed the first pitch he saw from Cougars junior reliever Patrick Hernandez far over the 380 foot sign in right centerfield to give the Irish a nine run lead.

Sophomore outfielder Braden Ashdown added a run to the Notre Dame lead with a solo shot over the left field fence, the first homer of his career.

Dupra struck out five and scattered seven hits in his seven innings of work, picking up his second win of the season. Sophomore reliever Evan Danieli finished off the Cougars, striking out four and holding Chicago State scoreless over the final two innings.

Schrage said he was very impressed with the performances he received from his young pitchers in the game.

“Brian was able to throw three pitches for strikes, he’s really becoming a pitcher,” Schrage said of the freshman. “I was really pleased with how Evan Danieli threw the ball the last two innings, he threw with some good velocity and I was very impressed.”

The Irish will face another non-conference opponent today, traveling to Fort Wayne to play IPFW at 7:30 p.m.