Irish Win Home Opener

The Notre Dame baseball team won their home opener on Tuesday behind some clutch hitting and some solid pitching—something they haven't done much of lately. Eight Irish pitchers combined to beat Cincinnati in an important game, 10-4, and freshman Brett Lilley became the first Irish player to record five hits in his first home game in an Irish uniform.

Notre Dame jumped on Cincinnati early when junior centerfielder Alex Nettey reached first on a throwing error to lead off the bottom of the first.

Freshman Brett Lilley collected his first of five hits on the evening, a Notre Dame record for any player in his first home game, advancing Nettey to third.

Senior Matt Edwards picked up his first of three RBI on the evening with a sacrifice liner to center scoring Nettey.

The Bearcats battled back in the fourth, however, when leadoff hitter LaFringe Hayes was hit by a Joey Williamson pitch. Williamson then hit Bearcat shortstop Mark Haske, advancing Hayes into scoring position.

Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and later scored on a fielder's choice and an Irish error to give the Bearcats the early 2-1 lead.

But the Irish came storming back in the bottom of the fourth, plating five runs on four hits, all coming with two outs.

Freshman third basemen Ross Brezovsky started the rally with a crucial two-out walk in what Irish coach Paul Mainieri said was an impressive inning for the Irish.

"What so great about that inning for me was everything was with two outs," Mainieri said of the deciding fourth inning. "Cooper hit the homerun to lead off the inning, but then Brezovsky draws the two-out walk. Lopez gets the two-out hit. Nettey gets the two-run hit with two outs. Lilley gets a two-out, RBI hit. Edwards gets a two-out, RBI hit.

"When teams are really bearing down, then you're hitters come through in the clutch like that with two outs. Unfortunately, we haven't been doing a lot of that this year."

The Irish also plated one in the sixth, fueled by a Lilley single to center. Notre Dame picked up two more in the seventh, aided by a Mike Dury double down the leftfield line, and another in the ninth, this time fueled by a Lilley single and an Edwards RBI single.

Equally as impressive on Tuesday night was the Notre Dame pitching staff. Eight Irish pitchers combined for one earned run on the evening.

"We had a lot of guys who went out there tonight and really competed hard on the mound," Mainieri said of his pitching staff. "I was just really pleased with the way the guys went out and competed on the mound. That was such a big lift for us."

The Irish haven't been playing Irish baseball as of late according to the Irish skipper, and Mainieri said he let his team know it after a disappointing weekend in Evansville, Ind., where the Irish dropped two of three games.

"I really challenged our guys after we got back from Evansville to see really what we're made of," said Mainieri. "I was really, really pleased with the way our kids competed tonight. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the dugout. There was a lot of grit and determination on our team tonight and I think that showed."

Mainieri often talks about the potential of his freshmen infielders, and Lilley certainly lived up to the hype on Tuesday.

"He competes," Mainieri said of Lilley. "He is fearless. He's still young, and he makes some freshman mistakes, but I can live with kids that are making aggressive mistakes. Lilley is going to compete. He's a pretty good hitter. He's not a power hitter, but he's going to put the bat on the ball and make things happen for us.

The Irish (8-9) return to Frank Eck Stadium on Thursday with their first BIG EAST action of the season in a doubleheader against Georgetown beginning at 12:05 PM.


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