Notre Dame outhit South Florida 13-9 but left 14 runners on base in losing to the Bulls 9-1 on Sunday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium. South Florida (18-8, 4-2) scored seven runs in the final two innings and took two of three over the weekend from the Irish. Notre Dame falls back to .500 at 11-11 and start out Big East Conference action 1-2. The Irish next play on Tuesday when they host Central Michigan. First pitch is slated for 5:05 PM. Missed opportunities was the theme on Sunday for Notre Dame.
"You have to have some guys step up in clutch situations," head coach Dave Schrage said. "That's one of the most frustrating days I've experienced. We get two hits every inning and guys are getting hits with nobody on base. The next time they come up, they got guys on base and they have bad at-bats. You have to get guys to step up and get big hits. We didn't do it today."
The Bulls, after holding the 2-1 advantage for six straight innings, finally added some insurance runs late in the game. The Irish's Kyle Weiland walked in Josh LeRoy to make it 3-1 and it was 4-1 when Brandin Daniel lofted a RBI sacrifice fly to right field. The big hit came when Nick Cardieri blasted a two-run double to the right center wall to give the Bulls a commanding 6-1 lead. Three of the four runs were charged to Brett Graffy. The sophomore right-hander pitched 2.1 innings, allowing three runs on just one hit and one walk. For good measure, South Florida added three more runs in the ninth inning to make a once close contest a laugher.
South Florida jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Walter Diaz led off the game with a four-pitch walk and scored three batters later on a Dan Kapala wild pitch. The Bulls plated the second run on a Dexter Butler RBI groundout. Kapala (0-2) took the loss and pitched five innings on Sunday, allowing two runs on four hits. Both runs were unearned. The senior right-hander faced only one other jam, this time in the fourth inning. The bases were loaded with no outs but Kapala induced a 1-2-3 double play and got a groundout for the third out.
Notre Dame quickly chipped away at the deficit. Leadoff batter Brett Lilley launched an opposite field liner that barely cleared the left field wall to make it 2-1 South Florida. It was Lilley's first homer of the season and third of his career. The junior shortstop finished the day 3-for-5 .
"He's done a real nice job for us all season," Schrage said of Lilley, who is now hitting a team-high .395. "He has been a real constant. Him and (A.J.) Pollock have been real steady at the top of the lineup. But we need to get them in when they get on base."
The Irish threatened almost every inning but did not deliver the clutch RBI hit. In the third inning, Lilley and A.J. Pollock reached on hits with one out but stayed on the base paths as Danny Dressman and Mike Dury both popped up to end the frame. In the fourth, Notre Dame had two more runners on base but Ryne Intlekofer popped up for the third out. The same situation occurred in the fifth but Matt Weglarz ended the scoring threat with a fly ball third out. In the sixth, with runners on first and second with one out, Ross Brezovsky was thrown out at third on a pickoff. South Florida starter Chris Delaney didn't have his best stuff, allowing 11 hits but moved to 5-0 on the year by surrendering one run in 6.1 innings of work. Notre Dame was 5-for-20 with runners on base and only 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
With the score still 2-1, Notre Dame loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning. Pollock reached on a base hit, Dury walked and Weglarz beat out an infield single. South Florida brought in James Rowe and he got Brezovsky to strike out for the second out. Shawn Samford relieved Rowe and got Jeremy Barnes to fly out for the third out.