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Baseball: Irish fall in series against WVU

Chris Allen | Monday, April 18, 2011

The Irish pitching staff went head-to-head with the top offense in the Big East this weekend as Notre Dame dropped two of three in a weekend series with West Virginia. Notre Dame dropped Sunday’s finale 8-1 after splitting a day-night doubleheader Friday.

Due to the threat of bad weather Saturday, the first two games of the weekend series were played Friday in a day-night doubleheader. The schedule change did little to avoid the harsh weather in South Bend, as torrential rain and wind gusts topping 50 miles per hour turned Friday afternoon’s opener into a sloppy affair. A pair of unearned runs in the 10th inning staked West Virginia (22-15, 8-4) to a 6-4 victory in a wild game. After rallying back from a 3-0 first-inning deficit, the Irish (15-18-1, 6-7) forced extra innings. In the Mountaineer half of the 10th, with the game tied at 4-4, errors from senior third baseman Greg Sherry and freshman relief pitcher Sean Fitzgerald allowed West Virginia to push across two runs and earn the 6-4 win.

Notre Dame fought back to earn a win in the nightcap, as senior right-hander Cole Johnson tossed 6.1 innings of one-run ball and junior left fielder Alex Robinson led the offense with a 2-for-3 night, including an RBI double as the Irish won 5-2. Irish coach Mik Aoki had mixed feelings on the Friday split.

“[In the opener] we had more opportunities to win the game offensively, but we gifted them with the win,” he said. “There was plenty of blame to have gone around but defensively we fell short. But we grinded it out in the second game [of the doubleheader].”

The Mountaineer bats showed up in Sunday’s rubber game, as senior shortstop Grant Buckner paced the West Virginia attack with a two-run homerun and three RBIs in an 8-1 win. West Virginia pitcher Andy Berry squashed any hope of an Irish comeback with a standout complete game three-hitter on the mound, allowing only a solo homerun to Mancini.

“The mix Berry had with his fastball and his changeup was the difference-maker,” Aoki said. “It is not like he was throwing in the upper 80’s; he was just able to dictate our rhythm and offense.”

Irish senior starting pitcher Todd Miller dropped to 3-3 on the year after allowing eight runs in five innings of work on the day. Two Irish errors led to five unearned runs in the West Virginia fifth inning and blew the lead open for the Mountaineers. Aoki said he was displeased with the team defense in the series.

“Really I was disappointed with the defense that put us in a hole regardless of the number of hits that made it extremely difficult for us to do anything,” he said. “The errors gave them the runs and we put Todd in a really difficult position. That was pretty disappointing. The series was ultimately decided by the fact that we made more mistakes than they did.”

The Irish play a mid-week non-conference game Tuesday night against Toledo at Frank Eck Stadium.