The Irish (26-7) have kept their streak alive with outstanding pitching and timely hitting. Sophomore Tyler Jones struggled early giving up two home runs and four earned runs in just four innings of work and the Irish batters managed just two hits in the first four innings. "Just wasn't our day today," said coach Paul Mainieri. "During this streak we've been doing a lot of the little things we need to do to win and obviously tonight we didn't do it. I tip my hat to their kid (sophomore pitcher Matt Onderlinde). He kept us off balance the whole night. Every time we'd get a count in our favor he'd flop a little change up or breaking ball up there and then he'd throw a fastball right after that and we weren't ready for it. We just didn't swing the bats well tonight."
Onderlinde was impressive on the mound confusing the Irish hitters with his pitches. Onderlinde's longest outing of the season was three innings prior to Tuesday's performance but he pitched a gem going eight innings, allowing only four hits and two earned runs.
The Irish had their chances but each time the Eagles closed the door on Notre Dame. In the sixth, Steve Sollmann singled to center field with two outs. Onderlinde then walked the next three Irish batters scoring Sollmann and loading the bases. Cody Rizzo then popped up a 2-0 pitch to the second baseman recording the third out ending the Irish rally.
Kris Billmaier led off the bottom of the night with a walk. Cody Rizzo struck out swinging recording the first out. Javy Sanchez singled to right field advancing Billmaier to second. Shortstop Matt Macri then singled to left scoring Billmaier leaving the Irish with runners on second and third with one out. Freshman Steve Andres walked loading the bases but Joe Thaman was called out on strikes looking and Steve Sollmann ended the rally with a ground ball to the pitcher recording the third out and snapping the 17-game winning streak.
Mainieri knew his team missed some opportunities. "I thought we had a lot of times where we had the right guy up there at the right time and you're just one good swing away from really putting yourself back in the game. We just couldn't get a good at-bat out of some of the guys that have been doing the job for us all year."
One bright spot was the impressive outing of freshman right-hander Ryan Doherty. Doherty threw 2 scoreless innings of relief and recorded five strikeouts while not allowing a hit. "He was a bulldog tonight," said Mainieri of Doherty. "He really went after the hitters and I was really proud of the way that he threw. We're going to need him down the stretch. He's had a little bit of a tender elbow and so we've been trying to play it cautious with him. Today he felt good so we ran him out there and I though he threw exceptionally well."
The Irish have been on a roll lately with their 17-game win streak and everything seemed to be going about as well as Mainieri could've hoped for. Mainieri knew the streak would end sometime and maybe something positive could come from the loss. "One thing we know about our sport, you just can't win them all. Things happen during the course of games and it's not like football or basketball where usually the team that's the better team wins all the time. They (Eastern Michigan) made some tremendous plays. Billmaier smashed the ball in the hole and their third baseman made a diving play and turned it into a double play. If the ball gets through there and maybe Sanchez comes up or maybe Rizzo comes up pops one out into the wind and all the sudden it's a different game early. If we become a little more determined because of it then that will be a positive for us but you never like to lose. I would rather win every game if we could, believe me."
The Irish will try to get back on track with a double-header against Pittsburgh at Eck Stadium on Thursday with the first game starting at 12:05 CST. They also play a double-header at Eck Stadium on Saturday against Seton Hall.