Notre Dame got three hits from Ross Brezovsky and scored three runs in the seventh to open up a close contest in beating Oakland 7-3 at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish draw closer back to the .500 mark at 13-14 and they are now 11-1 this season when scoring five runs or more. The chance to even the record will be on Thursday. Notre Dame will travel to the Buckeye state to take on Cincinnati in a three-game conference set. The Irish are 1-5 on the opponents' home field. To get a win on Tuesday before heading away from Frank Eck Stadium for three contests gives the team some slight momentum.
"We needed something," head coach Dave Schrage said. "We needed that after last weekend in Pittsburgh and to get some momentum. We talked before the game about playing with a sense of urgency from here on out. We're at a crossroads heading into Cincinnati. If we're going to win the league, we figured that six or seven losses could win it. We have to play like there's no tomorrow and let's play like this is a must win game."
Holding a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh, the Irish scored three times to give themselves a comfortable advantage. Tony Langford led off the frame with a single to center field. Danny Dressman followed with his third sacrifice bunt of the day to move the runner to second base. Jeremy Barnes' duck snort to center field put men on first and third with one out. Oakland brought in Ben Darga but the Golden Grizzlies' junior had a tough time getting the last two outs.
Brezovsky lined the first pitch he saw from Darga to left field for an RBI single to make it 4-1. The next batter, Ryan Smith, increased the lead to 5-1 on a RBI single to center field. After a sacrifice bunt by Brayden Ashdown to move the runners up to second and third, Darga walked Brett Lilley to load the bases. A.J. Pollock was the recipient of a hit batter but earned the RBI to make it 6-1 Notre Dame after seven innings of play.
These three runs would come in handy in the eighth inning. In relief, Dury allowed two two-out RBI hits to let Oakland (8-16) creep closer at 6-3. Both runs were unearned because Barnes committed two errors at first base to give the Golden Grizzlies extra outs to play with. The Irish's Kyle Weiland came on in relief and got the last out in the eighth with two runners on and closed the door in the ninth to pick up his second save of 2007. Weiland did a little more than pitch on Tuesday. The sophomore notched his first career hit in his first career at-bat and scored in the bottom of the eighth to make it 7-3.
"I laughed when he told me to grab a bat," Weiland said about Schrage's instructions. "There was no pressure on me. We had the lead. Running the bases was a little weird because I really didn't know what I was doing out there. I was trying to take up a spot and not get out."
Weiland's presence on the mound, who has made just four appearances before Tuesday's outing, was a good sight for Schrage and the Irish.
"The biggest thing was that he looked better tonight," Schrage said. "We need him. That's the best he's thrown this year. That's a good sign for us."
Notre Dame plated a run each in the first three innings to take an early 3-0 advantage off of Oakland‘s Scott Boleski (0-1). In the first inning, Dressman lofted a RBI sacrifice fly to score Lilley to make it 1-0. It's the 10th time this year that Lilley has scored a first inning run. It became 2-0 in the second when Pollock drilled a single to right field to plate Ross Brezovsky. Pollock ended the day 1-for-2 with two RBI‘s and two walks. The Irish made it 3-0 on a RBI double to right center field by Brezovsky. The junior went 3-for-4 on Tuesday, good for two RBI's and two runs scored. Brezovsky raised his average to .308 on the season.
Up until the eighth inning, the Irish pitching staff was on point. Brett Graffy (1-2) started the game and lasted three innings, allowing no runs on one hit while striking out three to earn the victory. Eric Maust relieved Graffy and was solid in his two innings of work. The freshman right-hander did allow three hits but also struck out three in the scoreless relief appearance. Sam Elam allowed a run in the sixth but Jess Stewart came on in the seventh to pitch a scoreless frame. As a staff, Notre Dame surrendered just one walk on Tuesday to Oakland and two of the three runs were unearned.
"I thought Brett Graffy did a great job for us tonight," Schrage said. "He threw well the first three innings and we also got out in front 3-0."