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Baseball: Eight walks, hit batter doom ND in 6-5 loss to Oakland

Bill Brink | Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eight walks and a hit batsman doomed Notre Dame (14-8), who lost 6-5 to Oakland at Eck Stadium Wednesday.

“That’s the difference in the ballgame,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. “We talk about it all the time.”

Junior Andrew Estes (2-0) picked up the win for the Grizzlies (6-11), going two-thirds of an inning and giving up no runs on one hit. Oakland’s starter, sophomore Greg Welke, went 6 2-3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits. Freshman Matt LaMothe picked up his first save.

Freshman Joe Spano took the loss for the Irish, dropping his record to 0-1. Spano relieved freshman starter Steve Sabatino after four innings and allowed three runs on two hits.

Sabatino had trouble locating his breaking pitches, something Schrage said allowed the Grizzlies to wait for their pitch.

“When our pitchers can only throw one pitch for a strike, obviously they’re sitting on a fastball and they’re going to drill it,” Schrage said.

Senior Grizzlies shortstop Andrew Stafford went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, and sophomore second baseman D.J. Jarrad went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Junior designated hitter Matt Grosso and sophomore first baseman David Casey each had two hits for the Irish.

“I’ve been pretty spotty the last couple weeks now,” Grosso said. “I was just getting up there trying to get something in the zone and swing at it. I just tried to be a little more patient today.”

Down 5-2 in the seventh, the Irish tied the game with a two-out rally. Freshman second baseman Tommy Chase reached after he got hit by a pitch and junior center fielder A.J. Pollock’s double down the third-base line scored him. Pollock advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on Grosso’s single to make the score 5-4.

The Grizzlies took Welke out and replaced him with senior Shane McCatty, but he fared no better. Senior shortstop Jeremy Barnes hit a triple to the warning track that scored Grosso and tied the game at five.

Spano struck out two in the top of the eighth, but also walked sophomore catcher Brett Greschke. The Grizzlies pinch-ran freshman Tim Ryan for Greschke and Ryan stole second and third on two consecutive pitches. When junior righty Steven Mazur came in to face the right-handed Jarrad, the Grizzly singled to left to give Oakland a 6-5 lead.

“We don’t really start scoring runs until the fifth inning,” Schrage said. “If I could put my finger on it and figure out why … I don’t know if it’s coincidence or what.”

Oakland got on the board in the top of the second. Stafford doubled off the wall in center field and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Sophomore designated hitter Dan Gliot popped out in foul territory near first base, but Stafford scored after tagging up.

Notre Dame tied the score at one in the bottom of the inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases, and sophomore catcher Matt Scioscia lined out to right field to drive in Barnes.

Oakland scored two in the third inning. Geschke singled to lead off and senior center fielder Justin Wilson walked. Jarrad bunted the runners to second and third, and sophomore second baseman Tommy Jablonski’s sac fly drove in Geschke. Stafford singled in Wilson and Oakland led 3-1.

Spano replaced Sabatino in the top of the fifth, but the struggles continued. Stafford singled and advanced to second when Spano was called for a balk. Sophomore first baseman Aaron Wick walked, and an error on freshman second baseman Tommy Chase allowed Stafford to score. Sophomore left fielder Eric Ogg singled in Wick and the Grizzlies led 5-1.

The Irish got one back in the sixth. Casey doubled down the left-field line, advanced to third on a passed ball and sophomore third baseman Greg Sherry’s groundout scored him to make the score 5-2.

“As a team, we just need to work on getting ready to go off the get-go,” Grosso said. “Jumping on teams early, that’s something that we’ve talked about as a team all year.”

The Irish play a three-game series at Pittsburgh beginning Friday.