Homer Glen, Ill. native Brett Graffey picked up the first win of his Irish career on Tuesday night, logging 5.1 innings of relief, allowing just one run on three hits. Graffey's strong pitching performance allowed the Irish to extend their current winning streak to eight games.
Notre Dame (18-8) jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, plating four runs in the bottom of the first. Irish leadoff hitter Craig Cooper opened the bottom of the first with a double down the left field line. Cooper was later knocked in on a fielder's choice, scoring the first Irish run. The Irish then scored three more runs fueled by a Ross Brezovsky triple and a Steve Andres single.
Chicago State bounced back against Irish starter David Gruener, picking up a run in the top of the second and two more in the top of the third to narrow the Irish lead, 4-3.
But Graffey entered the game in the top of the third with two runners on and forced left fielder Chris Freshour to fly out to left to end the Chicago State threat.
Graffey sailed through the next three innings, facing just nine Cougar hitters, allowing just one hit.
The Irish plated two more in the bottom of the sixth with Cooper again delivering the blow with a double down the left field line to take the 6-3 lead.
The Cougars picked up another run in the top of the seventh with a leadoff single and double, but Graffey buckled down and ended the only scoring the Cougars would have against the freshman right-hander.
Graffey pitched an impressive eighth before giving way to freshman closer, Kyle Weiland, who nailed down his seventh save with two strikeouts in a scoreless, hitless ninth.
"The plan was for Gruener to go three, Graffey to go three, then maybe (David) Phelps to go two and have Weiland to throw one inning," said Irish head coach Paul Mainieri after Tuesday's game. "We want to get Weiland out there more often. He hasn't got on the mound enough times. We were definitely going to throw Weiland no matter what.
"(Graffey) was cruising so well. I honestly thought the kid pitched great. He was pitching with a lot of emotion. He was challenging the hitters. The kid was going, I just thought we have a close game, the kid was getting some experience, I just thought it could help him down the line so I just left him in there all the way to the ninth inning."
"I wanted to give him experience," Mainieri continued. "The way he threw, I'd like to have him available for us this weekend. This kid is throwing so well, I want to have him available on the weekend in case we need him. I wanted to get him out of there before he threw too many pitches. I thought it worked out well."
The Irish also collected double-digit hits on Tuesday slugging 11 hits, two doubles and a triple. Senior Craig Cooper led the charge going 2-for-3 with two runs and a RBI. Senior Danny Dressman (3-for-4, RBI), sophomore Ross Brezovsky (2-for-3, 3B, R, 2 RBI), and freshman Eddie Mediola (2-for-3) also had solid nights at the plate.
Mainieri's plan to put his best pure hitter, Cooper, in the leadoff spot is paying dividends. Cooper has reached safely in 14-of-17 leadoff appearances so far this season.
"I've always liked a hitter in the leadoff spot that (is) a slugger," Mainieri said. "If he leads of the game with a double or a home run, right away it puts pressure on the other team and it kind of sets the tone for the game that you've got an aggressive team that's going to attack the opposition. I've put him in the leadoff spot and he's been doing that."
The Irish will be back in action tonight at Eck Stadium for 5:05 p.m. game against Ball State.