Feb. 26, 2006
MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Mike Dury's three-run blast lifted the Notre Dame baseball team into the lead but Oklahoma staged its own comeback by capitalizing on an error in the seventh, as the Sooners edged the Irish 4-3 in final-day action at USA Baseball Stadium in the Service Academies Classic.
Notre Dame (2-2) squandered a strong starting pitcher appearance for the second straight game, as junior righthander Jeff Manship yielded just two hits (one a two-run home run) and two walks in 5.0 innings while registering a career-best eight strikeouts.
The Irish ultimately held Oklahoma (9-3) to four hits and four walks but the Sooners used Aaron Reza's two-run shot and a two-RBI double from Kody Kaiser to score all the runs they would need.
Notre Dame seized the lead in the fifth after junior catcher Sean Gaston pulled a one-out single to right-center and senior shortstop Greg Lopez dropped a hit into left field. The runners moved up two batters later on a passed ball and the switch-hitting Dury connected on a full-count pitch from righthander P.J. Sandoval, easily clearing the rightfield fence for a 3-2 Irish lead.
The winning sequence in the seventh saw freshman lefthander Sam Elam plunk leadoff batter Kevin Smith, bringing junior righthander Jess Stewart out of the bullpen. The first baseman Dury then fielded a routine sacrifice bunt from Joseph Hughes but hesitated to make the tag when the runner stopped halfway down the line. Hughes then sprinted around Dury, whose resulting toss to second baseman Ross Brezovsky was high and put runners on the corners with no outs.
Notre Dame nearly tied the game in the eighth, after sophomore third baseman Brett Lilley sliced an 0-2 pitch into left-center with one out and then raced home two batters later on senior leftfielder Matt Bransfield's two-out blooper into shallow center field - but the charging Hughes made a perfect throw from his center field spot and catcher Jackson Williams tagged out Lilley to preserve the 4-3 lead.
Notre Dame's four starting pitchers on the opening-week trip combined for a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings of work, with nearly a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (22/6) and a .182 opponent batting average (14-for-77).
All of Oklahoma's runs were scored with 2-outs, giving Notre Dame's opponents 10 RBI this season with 2-outs (out of 13 total runs scored). Five of the 13 runs allowed by the Irish this season have been unearned, including three in Saturday's 7-6 extra-inning loss to Memphis.
(Note: the Irish had a quick return back to South Bend ... additional notes will be forthcoming later on und.com).
Notre Dame (2-2) 0-0-0 0-3-0 0-0-0 - 3 7 1 Oklahoma (9-3) 0-0-2 0-0-0 2-0-X - 4 4 0
Jeff Manship, Sam Elam (6), Jess Stewart (L, 0-1) and Sean Gaston.