Feb. 24, 2006
Pinch-hitter Joey Lieberman's first-pitch home run gave Memphis a 7-5 lead in the top of the 10th and the Tigers held on for the win after a perfect corner throw from the rightfielder caught Matt Bransfield trying to stretch his RBI single into a double, as the local team completed their comeback from a 5-0 deficit with Saturday night's 7-6 victory over Notre Dame. The Irish will return to USA Baseball Stadium for their final game in the Service Academies Classic on Sunday at noon, for a matchup with an Oklahoma team that lost in similar fashion to Memphis one night earlier.
The loss spoiled an impressive start for sophomore lefthander Wade Korpi, who retired the final 12 batters he faced in a five-inning stint that included seven strikeouts, no walks and just three hits allowed. Notre Dame's starting pitchers now have yielded just one run in 18 innings of work this season.
Notre Dame (2-1) built its lead after scoring in each of the first three innings, taking advantage of two position-player errors plus four walks and a hit batter issued by lefthander Lance Scoggins. Bransfield had an RBI single and fellow senior Cody Rizzo added a two-run hit to help give the Irish the early 5-0 lead.
The Irish had several chances to pad their lead but hit into three costly double plays - all with one out and a runner on second base - in the 1st, 8th and 9th innings.
Memphis (3-0) chipped away with three unearned runs in the sixth inning, another run in the seventh and the game-tying score with two outs in the top of the ninth. Leadoff batter Will Petersen hit safely in each of the Memphis scoring innings, with a single and run scored in the sixth before adding an RBI single and the game-tying double.
Three Notre Dame righthanders - freshman David Phelps, sophomore Joey Williamson and newcomer Kyle Weiland -pitched in relief for the Irish, with Phelps encountering the hard luck in the sixth when all three runs were unearned. Weiland (0-1) suffered the loss after serving up the home run to Lieberman while Phillip Utley (1-0) picked up the win by recording the final five outs for the Tigers.
The Notre Dame pitchers allowed 50% of leadoff batters to reach base in the first two games of the season and that trend continued on Saturday, as the Tigers put 5-of-10 leadoff men on base. Korpi lost just one of the five leadoff batters he faced but the bullpen allowed four leadoff baserunners, with three of them scoring to help spark the Memphis rally.
Notre Dame's first two games of the season had featured some clutch pitching with runners on base but Memphis completed its rally thanks to batting 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position and 7-for-16 with 2-outs, as five of the seven Tigers RBI came with 2-outs.
The Irish offense failed to match that clutch production, despite putting four leadoff batters on base. Notre Dame ultimately batted just 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and only 1-for-7 with 2-outs. The Irish totaled 15 baserunners but left four on base while seeing three others erased on the double players and another forced out on a stolen-base attempt. Notre Dame brought home five of its first eight baserunners but managed to score just one of seven baserunners after the third inning.
Bransfield (3-for-5) and sophomore third baseman Brett Lilley (2-for-3, BB, HBP, 2 R) combined for five of Notre Dame's seven hits, with the rest of the team batting just 2-for-23.
Memphis tied the game after Ben Grisham earned a full-count walk versus Williamson, moved up on a one-out groundout and scored on Petersen's first-pitch double into the left-center gap.
One inning later, Bill Moss worked to a full count versus Weiland before doubling to right-center and ultimately scoring three batters later when Lieberman sent his two-out home run over the fence in left-center field.
Senior centerfielder Alex Nettey kept Notre Dame's hopes alive in the bottom of the 10th with a leadoff single through the right side. Nettey moved up on a groundout and Utley struck out Craig Cooper before Bransfield went the other way on a 2-2 pitch, flaring the ball into the rightfield corner for an apparent double - if not for the rightfielder Grisham's perfect throw to second base that ended the game.
Bransfield leads the Irish with a .417 batting average, six RBI and a .750 slugging percentage, as the senior leftfielder is batting 5-for-12 with a home run, double and two runs scored.
Notre Dame is batting .255 as a team, matching the current opponent batting average. The Irish staff ERA remains an impressive 1.93, led by the combined 0.50 posted by Korpi and fellow starters Tom Thornton and Jeff Samardzija.
Memphis (3-0) 0-0-0 0-0-3 1-0-1 2 - 7 12 3
Lance Scoggins, Josh Langley (3), Chris South (8), Dusty Davis (9), Phillip Utley (9; W, 1-0) and Alan Fennell, Cory Barton (9).
Home Run: Joey Lieberman (MEM; 1 on in 10th, 1st of season).