March 27, 2009
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Notre Dame sophomore Cole Johnson allowed just two earned runs in his first career complete game victory to lead the Irish past Pittsburgh, 5-4, in BIG EAST baseball action from Trees Field Friday afternoon. Notre Dame improved to 15-8 overall and 2-2 in the conference, while the Panthers dropped to 13-7 and 2-2.
As good as Johnson was on the day, it took a spectacular defensive play from sophomore Golden Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.) to secure the complete game. Pittsburgh entered the bottom of the ninth trailing, 5-4, and was down to its final out when Joe Leonard stepped to the plate. The third baseman appeared as if he might have just hit a game tying solo home run or double off the short leftfield wall (290-feet), but Tate leapt and snagged the fly ball up against the wall to end the game.
Johnson (Hudson, Ohio) kept the high powered Pittsburgh attack grounded for much of the afternoon. The Panthers entered the contest hitting .321 as a team and averaging 8.5 runs per game. In fact, Pittsburgh was even more impressive over its first four home games, plating nearly 10 runs a game, but Johnson was in control from the opening pitch.
The right-handed hurler, who improved to 3-0 on the season, scattered seven hits, issued just two walks and struck out four. Johnson became the first Notre Dame pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game since David Phelps went the distance against Villanova on May 23, 2007.
With Notre Dame holding a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Panthers took advantage of a pair of Irish errors, plated two unearned runs and had the tying run in scoring position, but Johnson escaped the jam with the Irish still clinging to a one run lead, 5-4, and proceeded to retire the final seven Panthers of the game.
Tate, junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.), senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) and junior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) all had two hits for Notre Dame. Tate went 2-for-5, while Pollock went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and two RBI. Barnes went 2-for-4 with a run scored, RBI and stolen base. Martin went 2-for-3 with a run scored, two RBI and first home run of the season - a solo shot that gave the Irish an early 2-0 lead.
The Panthers fought back to tie the game, 2-2, before Notre Dame plated two in the sixth and one more in the seventh to grab a 5-2 advantage. Barnes and Martin each had RBI singles in the sixth, while Mills drove in the run in the seventh with an infield single.
Morgan Kielty paced the Panthers attack with three hits.
Nate Reed was charged with the loss for Pittsburgh. The southpaw surrendered four earned runs on eight hits. He fanned five and walked two. David Kaye worked the final 3.0 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits.
Notre Dame returns to action for the second game of the series tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Freshman left-handed hurler Dustin Ispas will take the mound for the Irish.