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No. 11 Louisville Deals Irish Baseball Heartbreaking, 6-3, Defeat In BIG EAST Series Opener
Senior OF Brayden Ashdown.
 
Senior OF Brayden Ashdown.

May 20, 2010

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame junior Brian Dupra was one out away from his first complete game of the season as the Irish clung to a 3-2 lead, but J.J. Ethel drilled a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to give No. 11 Louisville a 5-3 lead. Jeff Arnold followed with a solo home run and Cardinals closer Neil Holland picked up his NCAA-best 14th save as Louisville held on for a 6-3 triumph in the BIG EAST series opener Thursday night at Frank Eck Stadium.

After Dupra coasted through the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, retiring 11 consecutive Cardinals entering the ninth inning, the junior got Phil Wunderlich to ground out to open the ninth. Stewart Ijames followed with a perfectly placed bloop single just in front of a charging Ryan Connolly in left field. Dupra then got Josh Richmond to fly out for the second out of the inning, but Zak Wasserman followed with a single back up the middle to set the stage for Ethel. The pinch hitter stroked a 1-1 fastball over the left field wall to give Louisville a 5-3 lead.

The home run was Ethel's second of the season. It also gave the Cardinals their 22nd come-from-behind victory and 14th win in their last at bat. All six runs for Louisville on the night came with two outs. Irish opponents have now registered 149 two-out RBI on the season.

The round tripper made a winner out of Louisville reliever Tony Zych, who improved to 3-2 on the campaign. The righty tossed 1.1 innings of scoreless relief. Zych retired all four Irish batters he faced. Holland worked around a walk in the ninth inning, in large part to a pair of strikeouts, to pick up the save.

Dupra picked up the gut-wrenching loss and dropped to 4-5 on the year. His final line does not tell the story of his performance. Dupra worked a season-long 8.2 innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits. He fanned three and walked three. Dupra limited the potent Cardinals to just three hits and two earned runs over the first 8.1 innings. He registered a remarkable 14 ground ball outs.

Senior right fielder Billy Boockford went 1-for-3 with a clutch, two-out, two-strike, go-ahead two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Notre Dame a 3-2 advantage. Senior centerfielder Brayden Ashdown went 1-for-3 with a walk and solo home run. Senior first baseman Casey Martin registered 16 putouts at first base, tied for the second-most by an Irish player in the Dave Schrage era.

Louisville starter Thomas Royse, who entered the night with a 9-1 record and 2.61 ERA, sent down the first five Irish batters of the game before Ashdown belted his fifth home run of the year on a 2-1 offering from the Louisville righty to give the Irish a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second.

Louisville threatened right out of the gate. After Dupra retired the first two batters of the game on foul outs, Andrew Clark followed with a walk and Ryan Wright then doubled to put runners on second and third. Dupra then plunked Wunderlich to load the bases, but the right-handed hurler got Ijames to ground out to end the inning.

Dupra proceeded to retire the next 12 Louisville batters before issuing a two-out walk in the fifth to Drew Haynes, the Cardinals nine-hole hitter. Arnold followed with a hustle double to right field. Haynes never stopped running and scored just ahead of Doyle's throw from the second base bag. Boockford tried to gun down Arnold at second base, which allowed Haynes to score. Dupra then walked his second batter of the inning before Clark dropped in a bloop single to plate Arnold to make it 2-1.

Dupra seemed to regain his form in the top of the sixth. The Irish captain worked around an error, a catcher's interference call on Hudson with one out, by inducing a pair of groundouts to end the inning. In fact, Dupra recorded 11 ground ball outs over the first six innings of the game.

Royse was just as impressive, if not better. The righty retired 15 consecutive Notre Dame hitters following the Ashdown solo round tripper in the second inning. Martin snapped the streak with a sharp two-out single in the seventh and Doyle followed with another single to put a pair of runners on for Ashdown, who drew a walk to load the bases.

Up stepped Boockford, who quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 against Royse, but the senior battled back to even the count, 2-2, before fouling off five straight pitches. The right fielder eventually pulled a two-run single through the left side to give the Irish a 3-2 lead. The base hit ended the day for Royse. Zych came out of the Louisville bullpen and retired Hudson to end the inning.

Royse allowed just three earned runs on four hits in 6.2 innings of work. He fanned six and walked one.

Notre Dame and No. 11 Louisville return to action at 6:05 p.m. on Friday at Frank Eck Stadium. GameTracker, live web stream, live blog and recap of Saturday's game will be available on UND.com. Tickets for all Irish home contests this season are available through the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), on-line at the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.UND.com/tickets), and at the Frank Eck Stadium ticket windows on game day.

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