April 1, 2006
Jeff Manship took his turn on the mound with seven strong innings and Greg Lopez continued his steady RBI production from the bottom of the batting order, as the Notre Dame baseball team edged Pittsburgh, 4-3, in game-2 of the weekend's BIG EAST series. The teams will return to Eck Stadium on Sunday for the series finale, with the start time moved up to 11:00 a.m. (EDT) due to weather concerns for later in the day.
Notre Dame (16-8, 4-1 BIG EAST) - now 14-3 in its past 17 games - remained one game behind conference co-leaders St. John's and West Virginia (both 5-0), with SJU set to visit Eck Stadium in two weeks during the Easter break. Pittsburgh - picked second, behind favorite Notre Dame, in the BIG EAST preseason coaches poll - fell to 11-14 overall and 2-6 in league play.
The Irish struck for three runs in the 2nd inning and led 4-1 heading into the 8th, when the Pirates rallied versus freshman closer Kyle Weiland. The visitors scored twice and had the bases loaded with two outs, but Weiland induced a groundout and ultimately went on to register his BIG EAST-leading sixth save of the season.
Manship (3-1) limited Pittsburgh to the single run on four hits and only one walk while striking out nine of the 27 batters he faced, marking the fifth time in six starts this season that the junior righthander has posted eight-plus Ks. He located two-thirds of his pitches (62 of 93) for strikes, with his 21 outs including eight on groundballs and another on an infield foulout.
Lopez joined fellow seniors Craig Cooper and Matt Bransfield with two-hit games, as the Irish posted double-digit hits (10) for the 13th time this season. Lopez (2-for-3) singled home a pair of runs from his No. 8 spot in the batting order, pushing his team-leading RBI total to 22 while raising his season batting average to .342. The senior shortstop is batting a team-best .526 (10-for-19) in BIG EAST play this season, with 9 RBI in those five games (2 R, HBP, K, 2 SB).
Cooper - currently second on the team with a .370 overall batting average - hit 2-for-4 versus Pittsburgh for the second straight day and now owns a .429 career batting average against the Panthers (15-for-35, 9 RBI). He pushed his career BIG EAST batting average to .421 (74-for-176), still third-best in the 22-year history of BIG EAST baseball.
Manship dropped his season ERA to 2.13 while slicing his opponent batting average under .200 (.199), with 50 total strikeouts, only 9 walks and 28 hits allowed in 38 innings. He limited the Panthers to just one 2-out hit (1-for-8) and 2-for-10 with runners on base.
Junior righthander Paul Nardozzi (4-3) suffered the complete-game loss, with three strikeouts and just one walk in his 108-pitch outing.
Notre Dame's leading hitter Danny Dressman (.379) sparked the three-run bottom of the 2nd by dropping an 0-1 pitch into center field for a leadoff single. Ross Brezovsky then pulled Nardozzi's next pitch down the rightfield line, putting runners at the corners, and Sean Gaston then plated the game's first run two batters later with a sharply-hit single off the pitcher.
Brezovsky fell down moments later but the Panthers mishandled the pickoff chance, throwing errantly of third base as both runners advanced an extra base on the error. Lopez capped the inning with a full-count single up the middle, scoring Gaston for the 3-0 lead.
Pittsburgh All-America second baseman Jim Negrych - the preseason BIG EAST player of the year - drew a full-count walk to start the 4th and came all the way around to score on Brian Muldowney's one-out double into the left-center gap.
The Irish restored the three-run cushion in the 6th, behind Bransfield's single and stolen base and Lopez's 2-out, opposite-field single down the rightfield line (for another full-count RBI).
Pittsburgh's rally in the 8th included singles by Sean Conley and Jimmy Mayer, a hit batter, a sacrifice fly, two walks and a pair of wild pitches. Seth Button then pinch-hit in the 8-hole but Weiland induced a rally-ending groundout to the right side.
Mayer - who is batting 6-for-8 in the series - gave the Panthers one final chance by walking on five pitches with 2-outs in the 9th. That brought the lefthanded-hitting Negrych and his .413 batting average to the plate, but Weiland won the battle with a harmless groundout to the first baseman Cooper on a 2-2 pitch.
Manship has allowed 0-1 walks in three of his six starts while his .199 opponent batting average includes nearly identical numbers by righthanded (.198) and lefthanded (.200) hitters. His other situational stats include a .210 opponent batting average with runners on base and a lowly .191 with 2-outs. Manship's current 5.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 11.8 Ks per 9.0 innings (2nd-best since '65) both would rank fifth in the Notre Dame record book.
Pittsburgh (11-14, 2-6 BIG EAST) 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-2-0 - 3 6 3
Notre Dame (16-8, 4-1 BIG EAST) 0-3-0 0-0-1 0-0-X - 4 10 1
Double: Brian Muldowney (Pitt).