After enduring a gut-wrenching 16 inning loss to College of Charleston on Friday, Notre Dame quickly came back Saturday afternoon to battle top seed Kentucky. But the Irish were unable to muster enough offense as 10 walks by the pitching staff doomed Notre Dame and sent them to a 10-4 defeat. The Wildcats (43-16) now move on to play tomorrow at 2 p.m. against the loser of tonight's Ball State-College of Charleston matchup. For the Irish, they end their year at 45-17-1. It's a bitter way to end a season that saw a 23-game winning streak at one point and a variety of highlight moments.
Notre Dame struck first against Kentucky in the bottom of the first. Craig Cooper scored on an RBI groundout by Steve Andres to give the Irish an early 1-0 lead. Three innings later, Kentucky quickly erased this deficit by plating four in the fourth. Senior Tom Thornton, starting his last game in a Notre Dame uniform, did not do himself any favors when he walked the first two batters of the inning. A sac bunt moved the runners to second and third and Billy Grace gave the Wildcats a 2-1 advantage when he singled up the middle to score both players.
Shaun Lehmann capped the inning with a two-run homer to right center, increasing the lead to 4-1. Thornton (7-3) took the loss, going four innings while allowing four runs on seven hits. He also walked two hitters. Coming into the game, Thornton had walked just five all season long.
The Wildcats put the game out of reach for good in the sixth. Kentucky plated three runs in the frame on just one hit. Notre Dame's Jeff Manship helped their cause by walking two and surrendering a two-run RBI single to Colin Cowgill to give the Wildcats a 7-1 lead. Manship did not have his best stuff on Saturday. The junior right hander went 3.2 innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He did strike out eight but walked seven Kentucky batters and those came back to hurt him.
The Irish did try to fight back. Pitch hitter Matt Bransfield doubled to center field to score Alex Nettey and Evan Sharpley to cut Kentucky's lead to 8-3. But Wildcat pitcher Greg Dombrowski shut the door and squelched the comeback efforts. Dombrowski (10-2) was the winner as he threw a complete game, his third of the year. He allowed four runs on nine hits while striking out four.
Three Notre Dame players had multiple hit days. Cooper, Nettey and Jeremy Barnes all notched two hits.