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Baseball: ND sweeps Pirates for crucial wins

Chris Masoud | Monday, April 19, 2010

Winning in baseball is a team effort, but senior David Mills came close to defying that standard Sunday.

Mills did everything but pilot the plane to Seton Hall, as the left-handed reliever tossed one and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief and drove in the game-winning run Sunday as the Irish defeated Seton Hall 7-4 to secure a series sweep.

“David Mills couldn’t have done more for us, pitching in all three games and had the winning two-out RBI,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. “What we’ve asked that kid to do is amazing, and he’s really stepped up.”

The conference victory pushes Notre Dame’s win streak to four, the longest of the season, and marks the first time the Irish (15-19, 5-7 Big East) have swept an opponent since the opening weekend against Mississippi Valley State.  

“We got ourselves behind the eight ball early with our out-of-conference season, but we kind of rededicated ourselves this week,” Schrage said. “We talked about the importance of the next 18 conference games and each weekend being so important, and we’re off and running.”

Mills had a key role in all three Irish victories over the Pirates (13-20, 3-9). Mills picked up the save during Notre Dame’s 2-1 victory on Saturday after tossing a 1-2-3 ninth, and went 3-for-5 and scored the winning run in the 10th inning to seal a 6-5 victory on Friday.

The entire senior class has taken it upon themselves to salvage the remainder of the conference season in the hopes of securing their first Big East title. Senior left fielder Ryan Connolly sparked the Irish rally Sunday with a two-out base hit in the ninth and has now reached base safely in 46 consecutive games.

Senior first basemen Casey Martin tallied two multi-hit games over the weekend and knocked in three RBIs on get-away day.

“All-in-all, the seniors are stepping up, and we talked about that,” Schrage said. “We talked that they had a month left in their careers and they want to make something happen, and they’re going out and doing it.”

While timely hitting and solid defense in the late innings played a critical role in Notre Dame’s success, the bullpen continues to be the team’s strength. The core relievers of Mills, sophomore Will Hudgins, sophomore Joe Spano and senior Steve Mazur combined to throw nine and two-thirds scoreless innings against Seton Hall.

“It was a great team effort by the pitching staff,” Schrage said. “We went to four different guys, so it was a complete team effort and they did a great job of shutting Seton Hall down and giving our bats a chance to win a couple of ball games late. They’ve been our most consistent part of our game.”

Notre Dame’s second road sweep of the season took the team from the cellar of the conference standing to the middle of the pack in one weekend. The squad looks to continue its winning ways when it takes on Michigan Tuesday in Ann Arbor.