Irish Drop Home Opener Against Chippewas, 4-1

The Irish baseball team lost their home opener for the first time in eight years with a loss to Central Michigan on Tuesday, 4-1. The Irish ran into a buzz saw lefthander in Chippewa T.J. Johnson who chopped down the Irish hitters, pitching an eight-hit complete game.

The Irish got off to a rocky and unlucky start in the first inning with senior Joe Thaman on the mound. Chippewa leadoff hitter Eric Cannon singled to right-center to lead off the inning. Third baseman Jim Geldhof then hit what appeared to be a routine double play ball, but shortstop Greg Lopez couldn't come up with the Matt Edwards throw and both runners advanced safely.

Designated hitter Bryan Mitzel then took a 3-2 pitch and drove it deep to the center field wall scoring two runs. The Chippewas plated another run on a fielder's choice double play ball giving Central Michigan the 3-0 lead.

The Irish threatened in the first inning leaving the bases loaded, but never really challenged the lefty Johnson the rest of the night. Johnson scattered eight hits and gave up one lone run on a solo homerun by designated hitter Matt Bransfield.

"That wasn't exactly the way we expected to start out our home schedule," said Irish coach Paul Mainieri. "You have to tip your hat to their kid. We just couldn't solve him tonight."

"We had a chance to turn a double play in the first inning and we didn't do it," Mainieri continued. "And, when they had the chance to turn a double play to get out of an inning, they did. So they played a little bit better than we did tonight."

The Irish have been struggling lately against lefthanders. The Irish are hitting just .250 against lefties compared to their .346 team-average against right-handed pitchers.

Mainieri said his team got off to a fast start and are now struggling a bit at the plate. "The first 12 or 13 games we swung the bat exceptionally well," he said. "Maybe we had a little bit of a false sense of where we were. Typically, at the beginning of the year, we don't swing the bat great. These last two games against Southern Illinois and this game today we didn't swing the bats all that great. We're in a little bit of a rut offensively right now. We'll come out of it quickly."

"I'm not overly concerned," said Mainieri of the loss. "We've still got a pretty good record going. After we get through this week well be at home for an extended period of time and I'm sure we're going to play well."

There were a few bright spots for the Irish on Tuesday. Freshman Derik Olvey pitched five innings of scoreless relief and looked outstanding on the mound, scattering five hits--mostly bloop singles. Olvey had his breaking ball working all night and kept the Chippewas guessing. He had excellent command and control of his pitches all night.

Not to be outdone, freshman Jeff Samardzija continued his impressive start, pitching two scoreless innings on the mound. Samardzija has now pitched 11.1 innings of relief, allowing just two hits and one earned run.

Another bright spot for the Irish has been the hot start of shortstop Greg Lopez at the plate. Lopez brought the big stick again going 2-for-4 with a triple. Lopez raised his season average to .410 after hitting .250 as a freshman.

The Irish will have a chance to post their first home win on Wednesday with a 5:05 game at Eck Stadium against Detroit (1-9). "Jess Stewart is going to pitch tomorrow," said Mainieri. "I'm not sure how far he'll go, but he's going to get the ball tomorrow and hopefully he'll pitch well."


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