A cold April night treated fans to some dominant pitching from Wade Korpi. The Irish lefthander and two relievers combined for a two-hitter and Greg Lopez provided some clutch hitting to lead Notre Dame to a 2-1 victory over the Boilermakers at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish now sit at 33-8 for the season and face Bowling Green tomorrow at home. First pitch is at 5:05 p.m. The win was the 23rd straight for Notre Dame, extending not only the nation's longest current streak but the school record as well. Over the weekend, the Irish scored 40 runs in three games. Against Purdue, it was strong pitching, defense and timely hitting.
"This is what I've said about our team to describe them and I think I've used it more than once," head coach Paul Mainieri said. "If we have to win a game 2-1, we have the capability, pitching and defense to do so. If we have a slugfest like we did over the weekend, I feel like we have the capability to do that because of our hitting. These kids keep proving that's the case for them.
"I talked to them about this yesterday. Whatever game gets thrown at us, we have to find a way to win. I would not be surprised if we had two or three games like this at Connecticut this weekend."
This night was all about Korpi. The sophomore allowed an unearned run in the first inning when Mitch Hilligoss reached on a throwing error by third baseman Brett Lilley and later scored on a base hit by John Hunter. That gave the Boilermakers an early 1-0 lead.
Korpi (5-1) then began his dominance, retiring 17 batters in a row before allowing Hunter to reach first base on his only walk allowed to lead off the seventh. Korpi showed his true stuff by striking out the next three batters to end his outing for the night. He pitched seven innings, allowing just one hit and one unearned run while striking out 11 batters. Korpi becomes the 11th pitcher in Notre Dame history and seventh in the same season with multiple double-digit strikeout games.
Mike Dury pitched a perfect eighth inning while freshman reliever Kyle Weiland came in to pitch the ninth to earn his 11th save of the season. But the real star was Korpi. He lowered his ERA to a miniscule 1.56.
"The game plan is to go out there and get ahead of hitters and throw a lot of strikes," Korpi said. "There is no defense against a walk. So I throw strikes. Early in the count, I focus on getting ahead of them. When I got that second strike, I go for the put out."
"I sound like a broken record," Mainieri said about Korpi. "I'm trying to think of new things to say to you guys. He just keeps pitching like that every game. What can you say about the guy? He goes out there and he's the consummate, crafty left-hander. When he gets that changeup and curve over, his fastball looks like a 100 MPH coming in. He carved them up. He's done that every time out there. I'd like to tell you I was surprised but I'm not."
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Notre Dame pushed enough offense across the plate to support Korpi. Sean Gaston got a one-out base hit to right field to get the rally started. Matt Bransfield followed this up one batter later with another single to left field. After both runners moved up on Alex Nettey's groundout, Lopez lined a pitch from Trae Dauby (2-4) to center field for a two-run double, giving the Irish a 2-1 lead.
During the 23 game-win streak, Notre Dame has trailed at some point during the game 15 times but has come back to tie or take the lead an inning and a half or sooner in 11 of those contests. Duaby matched Korpi pitch-for-pitch, surrendering two runs on five hits in six innings but Lopez's clutch knock was the difference in the game.
"He's the rock of our team" Mainieri said of Lopez. "He just keeps doing it. You don't even notice him statistically. And then all of a sudden, he's leading your team in RBI's. He makes all the plays in the field. He's just a steady player and a joy to coach."
The only negative for the Irish was that Craig Cooper's hit streak ended at 21 games. The senior went 0-for-4 and had a chance to extend the mark to 22 in the bottom of the eighth but grounded out to the pitcher.
"He's no Joe DiMaggio," Mainieri said. "And he's not Superman. Honestly, in the past month, I haven't seen him take a bad swing. He was just a little off today. Their shortstop stopped him from getting a couple of hits. He had some great range. Coop is the consummate teammate. He's happy we won. I'm sure he's not worried about it."