March 4, 2011
ROCK HILL, S.C. - Notre Dame continued to get quality starting pitching, but the offense continued to struggle at the plate as the Irish dropped their first two games of the 2011 Coca-Cola Classic on the campus of Winthrop University Friday. Manhattan slipped past Notre Dame, 5-2, thanks to three runs in the ninth inning, and the host Eagles upended the Irish, 4-2. Notre Dame has dropped four consecutive games and stands at 3-5 on the season.
In the day's first game, senior RHP Brian Dupra was dominant for the second straight start, but did not factor in the decision. The co-captain struck out 10, did not issue a walk and allowed two earned runs in 8.0 innings. Dupra is the first Irish pitcher to register 10 or more strikeouts in back-to-back starts and the first Notre Dame hurler to post 10 or more strikeouts in a game without a walk since David Phelps in 2007. He has now fanned 26 on the season with only one walk.
The Irish grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning due to a Manhattan error, but the Jaspers answered off Dupra in the top of the eighth inning thanks in part to a pair of bloop base hits. Mark Onorati opened the inning with a perfectly placed looper in short right centerfield. Anthony Vega executed a sacrifice bunt and Chad Salem followed with another soft fly ball that had eyes to put runners on the corners with one out. Mike McCann tied the score, 2-2, with a sacrifice fly.
Senior 3B Greg Sherry and junior OF Alex Robinson each reached base to open the Irish eighth inning. After senior SS Mick Doyle popped out and fifth-year OF Herman Petzold fouled out, freshman OF Eric Jagielo drew a walk to load the bases for sophomore C Joe Hudson, but Manhattan starting pitcher John Soldinger got Hudson to fly out to end the threat.
Manhattan regained the lead in its half of the ninth inning. Sophomore RHP Adam Norton, who was making his first appearance on the mound following an oblique strain, replaced Dupra and quickly retired the leadoff batter, but Ramon Ortega followed with a single and Nick Camastro doubled (another bloop base hit that dropped in between sophomore CF Charlie Markson and Petzold in right field) to put runners on second and third with one out. Norton rebounded to get the second out of the inning. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Norton plunked Vega on an 0-2 pitch to give Manhattan a 3-2 lead. Salem followed with a two-run single to push the lead to 5-2.
Soldinger (1-0) retired Notre Dame 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning. He went the distance for his first victory of the season. He allowed just two runs, one earned, on four hits. Soldinger struck out three and walked four.
Norton (0-1) was charged with the loss. He allowed three runs, all earned, on three hits and one walk in 1.0 inning.
The Irish managed just four hits in the game by four different batters, including only one extra-base hit.
In the nightcap, Notre Dame jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning over Winthrop. Markson, who was making his first start since the season opener (he was unavailable to hit in the prior six games after being struck in the head with a pitch), tripled home sophomore 2B Frank DeSico to give the Irish a 1-0 advantage. Senior 3B Greg Sherry followed with an RBI ground out to make it 2-0.
Senior RHP Cole Johnson would keep the Eagles off the scoreboard over the first three innings, but ran into trouble with two outs in the fourth. Brett Thomas ripped a 2-1 offering from Johnson into the left field gap for a two-out, two-run double. Johnson limited the damage to those two runs and the game remained tied, 2-2, until the bottom of the sixth.
The Eagles plated two more runs, on three hits, to grab a 4-2 lead. With runners at the corners, two outs and Winthrop holding a 3-2 lead, the Eagles plated a crucial insurance run following a critical error from DeSico. The second base mishandled a routine ground ball that would have ended the inning and kept the Irish deficit at one run.
Instead, Notre Dame trailed by two runs, which was more than enough for Winthrop starter Tyler Mizenko. The righty allowed just two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts and a walk. He induced 17 ground ball outs. Mizenko retired 18 of 21 batters before leaving the game after Jagielo roped a double to open the Irish ninth inning.
Jagielo could have been the tying run without DeSico's error, but Tyler Lawrence, the Winthrop closer, retired the next three Notre Dame batters for his first save of the season.
Markson had three of Notre Dame's five hits. He went 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Johnson (1-2) was charged with the loss. The right-handed pitcher scattered eight hits in 7.0 innings of work. Johnson yielded four runs, only three of which were earned. He fanned five and did not issue a walk.
The Irish have now gotten eight consecutive quality starts (at least 6.0 innings and less than three earned runs) to open the season. Notre Dame had not registered that many quality starts since 2001 when the staff posted nine straight.
Over the last five games, in which the Irish are 1-4, Notre Dame has not recorded more than six hits in any contest. The Irish are batting only .155 in the span.
Notre Dame returns to action at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning against Manhattan. The Irish will play the host Eagles 45 minutes following the conclusion of the matchup with the Jaspers. The original schedule this weekend had the Irish playing one game on Saturday and one game on Sunday, but pending inclement weather Saturday night and all day Sunday has forced the adjustments. The contest with Manhattan will not air on WHME Harvest 103.1 FM, but can be heard free of charge on UND.com. The game with Winthrop will air on the radio and Internet.