Phelps hurled seven shutout innings and the Irish got three early RBI sacrifice flies to manufacture runs to down Georgetown 10-0 on Friday. The win moves Notre Dame back to .500 at 16-16 and up to 3-6 in conference action. Tomorrow, the two teams will do battle again. First pitch is set for 1:05 PM on Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium. Georgetown will send out Michael Gaggiloi (1-3, 3.25 ERA). The Irish had originally planned on Dan Kapala starting but the senior has tendonitis and now will go with either sophomore right-hander Kyle Weiland or junior left-hander Wade Korpi. Phelps' right arm, along with a multi-faceted offense, was the right medicine for Notre Dame to get back to even on the year.
"One thing we have to focus on is that we're in no position to walk out of here saying we just have to show up tomorrow," head coach Dave Schrage said. "We got a lot of feeling good down there but we still have two games to play. We can't let anything slip through. We talked to the team about having six games here, three against Georgetown and three against West Virginia. It's do-or-die for us and we have to make some hay in six games to move up in the standings."
Phelps had lost his last two starts heading into Friday's game. The sophomore has been the victim of the unearned run. Of the 19 runs allowed by Phelps this year, only nine have been earned. Phelps (5-3) didn't allow Georgetown too many scoring chances on Friday. The sophomore pitched seven shutout innings, striking out eight while allowing six hits. On the season, Phelps has struck out 54 batters in 60.2 innings of work and lowered his ERA to 1.34. That number would be the best ERA for a Notre Dame pitcher in the last 43 years.
Phelps ran into trouble only a few times. In the second inning, a few bad pickoff throws allowed Georgetown's Matt Harrigan to reach third base with one out. But Phelps got the next two batters out to end the threat. In the fifth, the Hoyas had the bases loaded but the sophomore struck out Matt Bouchard for the third out. In the sixth, after allowing a leadoff walk to Brandon Davis, Phelps struck out the side to typify his dominant evening.
"Towards the later innings, I definitely felt like I had my fastball going," Phelps said. "Earlier in the game, it felt like I was trying to aim the ball. Coach (Sherard) Clinkscales pulled me aside and told me to get ahead. I had a chip on my shoulder and got ahead with my fastball."
"He had eight strikeouts and two walks," Schrage said while he smiled after looking at the final stats. "He's been a dominant No. 1 for us. His record at 5-3 could really be 7-1. Today's one of the first days they've scored some runs for him."
Notre Dame was the benefit of some wild Georgetown pitching. Hoya starter Erick Chandler (1-1) threw 12 of 13 balls to start out his outing to load the bases in the first. The Irish converted when Matt Weglarz lofted a RBI sacrifice fly to the outfield to score Brett Lilley to make it 1-0. It was 2-0 when an error by Bouchard allowed Pollock to score from third base. On the night, Chandler walked six in four innings pitched.
Chandler's wildness extended into the third inning. Notre Dame pushed the lead to 4-0 on two more RBI sacrifice flies. Ross Brezovsky led off the frame with a walk and went to third on a hit-and-run single by Weglarz. Brezovsky scored on Jeremy Barnes' sac fly to center field. Mike Dury got into the act with his own RBI sacrifice fly to score Weglarz.
In the seventh inning, the Irish actually delivered some RBI base hits. Weglarz led off the frame with a base hit and later scored when he stole home. Georgetown pitcher Alex Meyer tried to pick off Danny Dressman at first and Weglarz, who was at third, raced for home and was safe. On the night, Weglarz contributed a team-high three hits. Barnes' RBI single plated Dressman to make it 6-0 and Ryan Smith came through with a RBI double down the left line to push the advantage to 7-0. Three more runs in the eighth provided the margin of victory for Notre Dame. The 3-4-5 hitters of Brezovsky, Weglarz and Dressman combined to go 7-for-10 on the night with seven runs scored
"Our 3-4-5 hitters, which have been our Achilles heal all year, really stepped up," Schrage said. "We decided to put Ross in the three hole. He's settling in there. With Weglarz, in baseball, guys will put up numbers if you play them. Weglarz has been a career .300 hitter in a solid conference. I know he's been struggling but as coaches we felt like he would hit. It was time for him to get hot and tonight was an example of that. Dressman has been solid for us in the five hole."