A three-run second inning by Notre Dame and some solid pitching allowed the Irish to beat Cleveland State 5-3 at Frank Eck Stadium on Tuesday. The victory allows the team to finally get back to .500 at 9-9, a mark they've been under since the third contest of the year. Tomorrow, Notre Dame will be back at home to take on Western Michigan. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 PM. The Irish got the seven-game home stand off on the right note and allowed Schrage to be a perfect 1-0 in Opening Day contests.
"1-0 sounds great," Schrage said, whose team has won five of six. "We hope to keep it going. I thought we came out a little nervous the first two innings. We had a great crowd. Our guys might have been a little hyped up. But we got it out of the way and it worked out. Let's keep it going."
The Vikings go to 2-15 on the season but showed some fight late. Trailing 5-2 in the eighth inning, Rich Runnells lined a RBI double to right center field off of Joey Williamson to make it 5-3 Notre Dame with Cleveland State runners on second and third. But Williamson showed resiliency and got Matt Madrid to fly out deep to left field to end the threat. In the ninth, Kyle Weiland, who saved 16 contests last season, recorded his first of the year to send the Vikings home unhappy.
Cleveland State got on the board early. The Vikings took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when John Westra hit an infield single off of Notre Dame starter Eric Maust that allowed Wallace Richardson to score from third base. The damage could have been worse. Maust allowed three hits in the first inning but also struck out three to avoid a further deficit.
Notre Dame responded in the second. Mike Dury opened the inning with a single off of Cleveland State's Brian Long (0-3) and went to second on an error by the Cleveland State left fielder. Errors would plague the Vikings all game long as they committed five. Coming into the contest, Cleveland State had committed 39 errors in 16 games played. Ross Brezovsky singled home Dury with a rope to center field to tie it up at 1-all. It would be 2-1 Irish when Brayden Ashdown singled home Brezovsky two batters later. Jeremy Barnes made it 3-1 Notre Dame as he scored from third base on a rundown of Ashdown between first and second. The Vikings didn't elect to throw it home and Barnes scored run No. 3.
Cleveland State would cut the deficit to 3-2 in the third inning when Bobby Cash, who reached on a Brett Lilley error, scored on a RBI groundout by Josh Hungerman. But that's all the Vikings would get off of Maust. The freshman right-hander, who also punts for the Notre Dame football team, lasted five innings. Maust (1-0) allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits while striking out six. He didn't walk anyone and 43 of his 52 pitches went for strikes. That's good for 79 percent. Maust was the first Irish freshman pitcher to start on Opening Day since 2003 and he provided a solid outing.
"I focused on making the right pitch," Maust said after allowing three first inning hits. "Early on, I gave up a double. But you have to come back and worry about the next pitch, not the pitch you made before."
"Eric pitched great for his first start as a freshman," Schrage said. "The first two guys went double and single. But he didn't walk anyone and he kept throwing strikes. He's going to be a good pitcher for us. I was real proud of how he battled."
Notre Dame would tack on some much needed insurance runs. In the bottom of the third inning, Danny Dressman lined a RBI single to score Lilley. Dressman, who is a co-captain, is 13-for-his-last-24 and added two more hits . The senior centerfielder was hitting .231 after being mired in an 0-for-11 slump but has found his groove to be the leading hitter on the team. It was 5-2 Irish when Ashdown rocketed a RBI double down the left field line to score Barnes. Ashdown had two hits on the day. Also contributing multiple hits was Dury (2-for-4)