April 28, 2010
GARY, Ind. Notre Dame senior Ryan Connolly continued his torrid hitting and the pitching staff nearly tossed its second straight shutout to lead the Irish past Valparaiso, 8-1, in the inaugural SouthShore Showdown at U.S. Steel Yard Wednesday night. Notre Dame did surrender a meaningless run in the bottom of the ninth inning which snapped an 18.0 inning scoreless streak.
Connolly finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored, four RBI, and his eighth home run of the season, a no-doubt three-run shot to put the Irish up 8-0 in the ninth inning. The left fielder was named MVP of the Showdown in an on-field ceremony following the game.
The Irish (19-22) almost posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since March 28-29, 2006 when Notre Dame blanked Valparaiso (12-0) and Western Michigan (2-0).
Junior Todd Miller was credited with the victory and improved to 2-0 on the year. He looked sharp in his first outing since March 6. The junior had missed the last six weeks with impingement in his right shoulder.
Miller retired the first five Crusaders (17-22) of the game before allowing a two-out single and free pass, but both proved meaningless as Miller got a fly out to end the inning. He was removed after the second inning on a predetermined pinch count. Miller threw 27 pitches, 18 for strikes. He induced a trio of ground ball outs.
Crusaders southpaw Tyler Deetjen picked up the loss and dropped to 2-2 on the year. He yielded four runs, all earned, on five hits.
Sophomore Ryan Richter matched Miller's 2.0 scoreless innings. The southpaw struck out one, did not walk a batter and surrendered a hit.
Senior Eric Maust followed with a scoreless fifth inning. The righty did yield a base hit, but fanned one. Maust has now gone 49.1 consecutive innings (228 batters) without allowing a home run. The homer-free stretch for Maust is actually not the longest (in terms of batters) of his career, as the 231st batter he faced to open his career was the first to homer against him.
Freshman Adam Norton received a nice ovation from the home crowd as the former Andrean High School product and Highland native worked around a leadoff double in the sixth before retiring Valpo in order in the seventh.
Norton fanned one in his 2.0 scoreless innings.
Notre Dame plated a pair of runs in the first inning to grab a 2-0 lead. Connolly opened the game with a double just inside the third base bag. After Frank Desico popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt and David Mills lined out sharply to second base, Casey Martin was plunked and Brayden Ashdown reached on an infield single to load the bases. Billy Boockford fouled off four pitches before ripping a 1-2 fast ball into left field for a two-run single.
The Irish added two more runs in the top of the second inning. Joe Hudson led off the frame with a single, his first hit since April 10, and scored all the way from first on Connolly's RBI double. After Connolly moved to third base on the throw home, DeSico followed with an RBI ground out to make it 4-0.
The Irish have scored two runs in each of the first two innings each of the last two days.
Connolly's back-to-back doubles to open the contest gave him 11 base hits in his last 14 at bats, good for a .786 batting average. In fact, Connolly has led off each of the last three Notre Dame games with hits, including consecutive games with doubles. He has registered an on-base percentage of .575 (23-for-40) in his first plate appearance of his 40 games played this season.
Notre Dame opened the third inning with back-to-back singles from Ashdown and Martin, but Valpo reliever Austen Siwiec struck out Boockford and got a double play ground out from Mick Doyle to end the inning.
Notre Dame opens its BIG EAST three-game series against St. John's at 6:05 p.m. on Friday at Frank Eck Stadium. Live stats, live web streams, live blogs and recaps of all three games will be available on UND.com. Tickets for all Fighting Irish home contests this season are available through the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), on-line at the official Fighting Irish athletics web site (www.UND.com/tickets), and at the Frank Eck Stadium ticket windows on game night.