Irish Run Out of Gas on Sunday

Six runs and four homeruns were just shy of what the Irish needed to play for another day. Notre Dame's hopes of advancing to a super regional were dashed when Steve Sollmann struck out for the final out to give Arizona the 7-6 win on Sunday. The strikeout was fitting as the Sollmann K was as improbable as the Irish advancing after losing in the first game of the regional.

After winning two dramatic games on Saturday, the stage was set for a dramatic, come from behind victory for the Irish on Sunday.

Freshman Jeff Samardzija was Sunday's starter and Samardzija was cruising early, retiring the first nine he faced in order.

The Irish got on the board first with a Matt Edwards homer in the top of the third.

They added another run in the top of the fourth with a Steve Andres monstrous homer to right to put the Irish up 2-0.

Wildcat starter John Meloan then settled down and started mowing down Irish hitters with a vicious slider.

The wheels started to come off in the bottom of the fourth for Samardzija. He gave up a lead off single, a triple, another single, and then a homer to give the Wildcats the early 4-2 lead.

Samardzija battled out of the fourth, and pitched a solid fifth, before giving up another two-run shot in the sixth.

With the Irish down, 6-2, and Meloan punching out Irish hitters, all looked lost for Notre Dame until Cody Rizzo hit a dramatic three-run homer in the top of the seventh to tie the game for the Irish 6-6.

But, a lead off walk to Jeff Van Houten in the bottom of the seventh would prove costly. Van Houten advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and was then knocked in on a Moises Duran single to give the Wildcats the go ahead run, 7-6.

The Irish had their chance in the ninth. Pinch hitter Danny Dressman led off the inning with a walk, but Dressman stumbled on a pitch in the dirt trying to get back to first base, and was picked off when catcher Nick Hundley fired the ball down to first base, taking the tying run off base.

That left if up to Matt Macri and Steve Sollmann—two of Notre Dame's better hitters. Two thrown bats in the dirt later meant the Irish just couldn't overcome the odds.

"I'm disappointed for the kids," said Irish coach Paul Mainieri after the loss. "I'm not disappointed in them. I think the thing that brakes my heart the most was to see Steve Sollmann strike out to end the game, end our season, and end his career."

"I thought for sure he was going to somehow find a way to keep it going there," Mainieri said, but it was always a long shot at best, even for Steve Sollmann.

"I felt like we had a team that really could compete for the national championship. We had our shot at it and we didn't get it done," Mainieri said. We'll have to accept it like men and go forward."

The Irish had their best season ever at Notre Dame with a 51-12 record--hardly anything to be ashamed of. The Irish fell just short of their goal this year. Losing three very good pitchers to injuries didn't help. The future is bright for Irish baseball--they're just not quite there yet. The return of Grant Johnson, Matt Macri and Chris Niesel—and a healthy John Axford, Jeff Manship and Derik Olvey--just might get them there next season. Stay tuned….


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