The senior first baseman's RBI double in the fifth put Notre Dame up to stay and the Irish pitching staff was brilliant in the 3-2 victory over IPFW on Tuesday at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame improves to 15-16 on the season and will get a chance to get back to .500 on Wednesday. The Irish will welcome in Bowling Green with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 PM. Wade Korpi (1-4, 4.28 ERA) looks to get back on track as the junior left-hander will oppose BGU's Dusty Hawk (0-1, 5.62 ERA). Notre Dame got a clutch hit and some fantastic pitching to overcome the cold weather conditions.
"It was not a hitter's day," head coach Dave Schrage said. "We had to rely on pitching and defense. Fortunately for us, we got great pitching tonight."
IPFW (4-24) tied the contest up at 1-all in the fifth inning when Brett Merkley scored on a RBI groundout. Merkley reached on a single to right field off of Notre Dame's Brett Graffy, went to second on a walk, third on a passed ball by Irish catcher Ryan Smith before finally crossing the plate. The passed ball was Notre Dame's 20th of the year and the 21st was committed later in the game. In 2006, the Irish had six all season long.
Notre Dame responded in a hurry. Jeremy Barnes singled to leadoff the bottom of the fifth. It was the Irish's first base hit of the contest off of IPFW's Stacy Herrold (1-5). The sophomore right-hand pitcher had a 10.86 ERA heading into Tuesday but handcuffed the Notre Dame offense through four innings. But Dury finally delivered a key blow. The senior hammered a Herrold pitch over the left fielder's head, allowing Barnes to score all the way from first to give the Irish a 2-1 advantage. It was Dury's team-high 22nd RBI of the season. Notre Dame added another run when two batters later, Michael Wright came through in the clutch with a RBI single to right field to make it 3-1. It was Wright's sixth RBI in 2007. The two runs in the fifth allowed Graffy to even his season record at 2-2.
"The inning started with Jeremy getting a leadoff single, which swung the momentum back towards us," Schrage said. "Dury came through with the double. We moved Dury to the seventh hole. It seems like with this team, whoever we put in the three-hole, it's been the black hole. If you look through the stats, our third hitter is hitting .240. We moved Dury down the seventh hole and he had two RBI's. Go figure."
The two-run lead would be safe. David Mills relieved Graffy in the seventh. The freshman left-hander did surrender two base hits in the frame but got Jared Davis to fly out to end the inning. On the play, left-fielder Ross Brezovsky dove for Davis's sinking ball and nabbed it right before it hit the ground.
Tony Langford, who missed the entire 2006 season because of Tommy John surgery, earned his first save of the year and second of his career by pitching the final two innings. In the eighth, the junior left-hander had runners on first and second with one out but induced Merkley to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. In the ninth, Langford‘s wild pitch allowed Aaron Kerns to score from third base to cut the lead to 3-2. But the junior struck out Shaun Vandrieessche looking to end the contest.
The Irish, despite not getting a base hit until the fifth inning, took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Matt Weglarz walked to lead the frame off. The key play occurred when Danny Dressman laid down a sacrifice bunt but Herrold threw the ball down the right field line. It allowed Weglarz to advance to third and Dressman to second. Dury brought Weglarz home with a RBI groundout for the first run of the game.
Sam Elam started the contest and lasted four innings, allowing zero runs. The sophomore left-hander had a 8.18 ERA heading into Tuesday with a 0-1 mark. Elam's control has been a problem as he's walked 10 batters in 11 innings of work. Against IPFW, Elam surrendered just one walk and two hits while striking out two.
"I thought one of the most encouraging signs of the night was Sam Elam's performance," Schrage said. "That's the best I've seen Sam throw with his command. He did a great job for us and threw four shutout innings. He's a guy we can really use down the stretch. He set the tone for us on the mound."