Irish Lose Rubber Match

For the second weekend in a row, the Notre Dame baseball team had a chance to win a rubber match in a three-game weekend series. The Irish lost two of three last week down in San Antonio. This weekend, they were competing at the Baseball at the Beach Tournament in Myrtle Beach, SC. After beating No. 12 TCU on Saturday, Notre Dame's bats went silent again for the second Sunday in a row.

Last Sunday, it was dominant pitching by Texas State that shutout the Irish. This time around, it was Coastal Carolina's John Mariotti that threw a complete game five-hit shutout to beat Notre Dame 4-0. The Irish fall to 2-4 on the year under new head coach Dave Schrage. They'll next play in the Stetson Invitational down in Deland, Florida on Friday. Stetson will be the first opponent followed by weekend games against Nebraska and Iowa.

"Mariotti threw the ball well for the first three innings," Schrage said by phone after the loss. "But we left too many runners on base once again, which has been a problem for us. On Saturday, we beat TCU 4-1 but it should have been a wider margin of victory. Someone needs to step up on offense."

Schrage has seen improvements from week one to two.

"This week in practice, we focused on shutting down the running game of the opponents," he said. "We had no stolen bases allowed the past two games after surrendering a lot last weekend. We wanted to shut them down and it was a point of emphasis in practice. Also, we hit the ball better. The production and driving runs in still is coming along. But we had two games out of three with double-digit hit totals this weekend."

Brett Graffy (0-1) was the loser for Notre Dame. The sophomore right-hander allowed one hit through the first two innings but ran into serious trouble in the third. Graffy allowed three runs on four hits and also hit a batter to let Coastal Carolina (9-1) get out to an early 3-0 lead. Graffy was relieved in the fourth inning after hitting another batter, balking for the second time in the contest and surrendering a bunt single. The positive pitching news was the bullpen's effort on Sunday. In five innings of work, Mike Dury, Dan Kapala and Jess Stewart combined to allow just one more run on two hits.

"Graffy's velocity was good," Schrage said. "But he wasn't as sharp with his control. He hit a guy with two strikes one time. But the bullpen gave us a chance to get back into the game. They really did a nice job. Overall throughout the weekend, I thought the pitching staff threw the ball well."

Mariotti (1-0) had Notre Dame's number all afternoon long. In addition to the five-hit shutout, he struck out 10 Irish hitters. Notre Dame's best scoring chance came in the sixth inning and trailing 3-0. Brett Lilley singled down the left field line with one out and went to third on Danny Dressman's double. Mariotti then showed how dominant he was on Sunday. He struck out Jeremy Barnes and Dury to end the threat and the Irish's chance at a victory. Dressman was the only Notre Dame batter with two hits.

"We need some guys to emerge as leaders as far as production goes," Schrage said. "Hitting is contagious. When one guy gets hot, the other players can see it and will feed off of it. When this happens, the offense will relax and hopefully everything will take care of itself."


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