May 11, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame freshman Steve Sabatino tossed 7.1 solid innings and sophomore Todd Miller picked up his fourth save of the season to lead the Irish past Western Michigan, 5-3, in the Frank Eck Stadium season finale Monday night. Notre Dame improves to 30-20 on the year, while the Broncos fall to 13-33.
Sabatino (Lockport, Ill.), who improved to 3-0 on the season, scattered eight hits and allowed three earned runs in the longest outing of his career. He struck out four and walked just one, the second batter of the ball game.
Junior A.J. Pollock (Hebron, Conn.) and junior Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.) paced the Notre Dame attack with two hits apiece. Pollock went 2-for-5 with a two-run home run (his seventh of the year), two stolen bases. The All-American candidate nearly added his eighth home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Notre Dame had a golden chance to blow the game wide open in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Irish loaded the bases with nobody out leading 5-3, but were unable to score. Pollock hammered the first offering of his at-bat from Stephen Morrison that appeared destined to be his first career grand slam, but Pedro Dager, the Broncos left fielder, climbed up the fence, reached into the trees and pulled back the ball for an absolutely incredible catch.
Miller (Franklin, Tenn.) tossed 1.2 innings of shutout relief. He did allow a pair of singles in the eighth inning, which allowed a pair of inherited runners to score, but the right-handed hurler retired the Broncos in order in the ninth.
Sabatino worked around a first inning walk, thanks to his first pickoff of the season. He then worked around consecutive singles to open the second inning. Sabatino punched out Tim Cross and then benefitted from a spectacular play from Pollock. The All-American candidate caught a fly ball and gunned down Matthew Abro at the plate for his fourth outfield assist of the season.
Notre Dame finally solved Casey Webber in the bottom of the third inning. After the southpaw limited the Irish to just one hit the first time through the lineup, Pollock crushed a 2-1 offering over the left field wall for a two-run home run to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead. The long ball was Pollock's seventh of the season.
Sabatino surrendered another single in the third with one out, but got a double play to end the inning.
The Broncos cut the Irish lead in half with a run in the top of the fourth inning. Dager laced a triple into the right centerfield gap to open the inning and Chris Lewis followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1.
Sabatino definitely settled into a grove following the leadoff triple by Dager in the fourth. The southpaw retired nine consecutive Broncos over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings before allowing a leadoff single in the top of the seventh inning, but Sabatino quickly erased the base hit. The rookie got Abro to ground into the Broncos second double play of the evening. Sabatino did yield a two-out single, but got a pop out to end the inning.
The Irish pushed their lead to 5-1 with a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Ashdown singled home sophomore Matt Scioscia (Westlake Village, Calif.), senior Evan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.) followed two batters later with a two-run bomb - his third of the year.
After allowing a pair of one-out singles in the eighth inning, Sabatino was pulled in favor of Miller. Both runners advanced a base following the righty reliever's first wild pitch of the season. Kyle Galbraith singled to bring the Broncos within three runs, 5-2. Dager then reached on an infield single to load the bases. Western Michigan made it 6-3 when sophomore Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.) mishandled a routine ground ball, but the Irish second baseman redeemed himself one play later. Sherry snagged a liner and flipped to senior Jeremy Barnes (Garland, Texas) for an inning ending double play - Notre Dame's fourth twin killing of the evening.
The Irish returns to action tomorrow evening with their final non-conference game of the 2009 season. Notre Dame travels to Joliet, Ill., to face Illinois State. First pitch at Silver Cross Field is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT.