April 15, 2009
CHICAGO, Ill. - Tony Vercelli hit two home runs for Northwestern and Notre Dame managed just a solo home run off the bat of senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Tex.) as the Wildcats defeated the Irish, 5-1, at U.S. Cellular Field. Freshman Ryan Richter (South Bend, Ind.) was charged with the loss and falls to 3-1, despite striking out a career-high six in his first career start.
Starter Eric Jokisch (3-4) picked up the win after tossing five shutout innings, and Cole Livermore notched his first career save after pitching the last 2.1 innings in scoreless fashion.
The loss comes after Notre Dame (20-13, 6-6 BIG EAST) defeated Northern Illinois last season at U.S. Cellular Field, 5-4.
Barnes and sophomore Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) each went 2-for-4 for the Irish. Junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) walked twice, but was held hitless for the third consecutive game. Barnes extended his hitting streak to nine games, tying for the second longest hitting streak by an Irish player this season.
Tommy Finn and Trevor Stevens each had three hits for the Wildcats (9-23, 1-7 Big Ten), while Vercelli drove in three with his two home runs.
Northwestern struck quickly in the top of the first to take the early lead. With one out, Trevor Stevens pushed a perfect bunt past Richter for an infield hit. Third baseman Chris Lashmet then laced a double to left just out of the reach of a diving Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.), scoring Stevens and putting the Wildcats up 1-0. The double extended Lashmet's hitting streak to nine games, tying for the longest by a Northwestern hitter on the season. Richter bounced back to strike out the next two batters and end the threat.
Northwestern added to its lead in the third when Jim Grieco led off with a walk and Finn and Stevens followed with back-to-back singles to right field, making the score 2-0. Lashmet followed with a walk, but Richter worked out of the bases loaded, nobody out jam without allowing another run by inducing Vercelli to fly to short right and striking out Paul Snieder and Chad Noble swinging.
Richter worked 3.2 innings in the start, allowing two runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out a career high six, four of which came with runners in scoring position.
Jokisch faced the minimum through four, allowing just a pair of singles. In the third, McConnell singled with one out, but was erased when Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. And in the fourth, Ashdown led off with a line drive single to right, but was thrown out attempting to steal third one out later.
Notre Dame had a promising start to the fifth when junior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.) and Barnes both singled to center. But junior Billy Boockford (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) bunted into a force out at third, Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) grounded out, and McConnell flew out to center to end the inning.
Jokisch was masterful in the game, pitching five shutout innings, giving up just four hits and striking out three without a walk. He needed just 55 pitches and faced two over the minimum number of batters.
Sophomore Todd Miller (Franklin, Tenn.) relieved Richter and threw 2.1 scoreless innings before giving up a first-pitch home run to left to Vercelli to begin the seventh.
Barnes duplicated Vercelli's feat in the bottom half of the inning by leading off with a home run, his seventh of the season and the 18th of his career, to get the Irish on the board and within two at 3-1. The home run landed in the bullpen in right in almost the exact same spot as his home run at U.S. Cellular Field last season against Northern Illinois, a home run that gave Notre Dame a 4-3 lead in the win.
The Irish managed five hits in the fifth through seventh innings, but scored only on Barnes' home run and left six runners on base.
Vercelli put the Wildcats up 5-1 in the ninth with a two-run homer, his second of the game and team-leading sixth of the season, this one coming off of Irish reliever Steven Mazur (Round Rock, Tex.)
Sophomore David Casey (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) had his eight-game hitting streak snapped after grounding into a double play in a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth.
Northwestern is Notre Dame's most common opponent, as the Irish and Wildcats have now faced off 131 times, with Notre Dame holding a 71-59-1 series advantage. The Wildcats have now won four straight in the series, with the last Notre Dame win coming at Northwestern on April 16, 1996.
The Irish return to action on Friday as they host BIG EAST leader West Virginia for a three game series. First pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m.