After an error and two wild pitched allowed the Rockets to tie it up in the ninth, Jeremy Barnes scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the frame to give Notre Dame a heart-stopping 8-7 win over Toledo at Frank Eck Stadium. The win sends the Irish above .500 at 18-17 and they'll have a chance to get to two games above the even mark on Wednesday. Notre Dame will host Purdue tomorrow evening in South Bend. First-pitch is scheduled for 6:05 PM and sophomore Sam Elam (0-1, 6.00 ERA) will take the mound for the Irish. A gutty comeback victory made it five wins in Notre Dame's past six games.
"I'll give our team a lot of credit," head coach Dave Schrage said. "They fought through and overcame adversity. We were down five, came back and got up two and an error in the ninth on a double play ball tied it up. Instead of hanging out heads, Barnes comes through with a big double and we win the game. We'll take the gift. It's a momentum game for us."
Senior Jess Stewart (2-1) came on in the ninth protecting a 7-5 advantage but could not close it out. The right-hander did not get much help as Notre Dame allowed two Toledo runs to cross the plate to tie the game up at 7-all. Drew Hoisington singled for the third time of the night with one out. The critical at-bat came next. Stewart forced Jake Swint to ground to Barnes for a tailor made game-ending double play. But Barnes booted the ball to allow the inning to continue. Hoisington would score on Stewart's second wild pitch of the inning and Swift was plated on Scott Boley' RBI double to tie it up.
Barnes would atone for his mistake. He led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to the right center wall. The sophomore went to third on a beautiful sacrifice bunt by Ryan Smith. Toledo closer Joe Roberts (1-1) made it easy for Notre Dame when the senior uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Barnes to score the winning run in the Irish's last at-bat.
"I needed to step up," Barnes said. "After that error, I needed to step up. Stewart did exactly what he needed to do to get the double play ball. It was a tough play but I needed to make that play. My thought going up was that if I set the table, the guys would get me in. I had faith in it."
The Irish trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth. Notre Dame had clawed back from a 5-0 hole to make it a game. The Irish comeback became complete in the frame. Pinch hitter Eddy Mendiola got the ball rolling with a one-out single to right field. The next batter, Brett Lilley, got hit by a pitch to bring up A.J. Pollock. The freshman third baseman sent a grounder to second base. Instead of going to first for the easy out, Toledo's Ryan Laude went to second for the force play and threw the ball away. It allowed pinch runner Michael Wright to score from second base to tie the contest up at 5-all.
After intentionally walking Ross Brezovsky to load the bases, Matt Weinberg committed the ultimate pitching sin. Weinberg walked Matt Weglarz to score Lilley to give Notre Dame their first lead of the game at 6-5. Senior Mike Dury missed a grand slam by inches but did earn a sacrifice fly to plate Pollock to make it 7-5 Irish to set up the crazy ninth inning.
Trailing 5-0 entering the sixth, the Irish offense finally started to show some life. Matt Weglarz led off the frame with a single and went to third two batters later on a throwing error by Toledo shortstop Jake Oester. Barnes plated Weglarz on a RBI groundout to make it 5-1 Rockets and Smith cut the deficit to 5-2 on a RBI single to right center field.
Notre Dame got closer in the seventh inning. Consecutive singles by Lilley, Pollock and Brezovsky loaded the bases with no outs. Weglarz lined a single to left field to score Lilley to make it 5-3 Toledo. The Rockets replaced starter Todd Thomas with Jeff Cinadr, who promptly struck out Dury. The deficit was cut to a run when Danny Dressman came through with an RBI fielder's choice to score Pollock. With Toledo leading 5-4 and Brezovsky on third and Dressman on first, Barnes launched a pitch to deep left field. But Swint, who was in a full-out sprint, dove for the ball and came up with it on the warning track for the third out. Both Brezovsky and Dressman would have scored on the play.
Notre Dame starter Brett Graffy got roughed up on Tuesday. The sophomore right-hander allowed five runs in five innings of work. Graffy allowed six hits and did strike out six but also walked three Rocket batters. Luckily for Notre Dame, they got some great middle relief from Andrew Scheid. Coming into Tuesday, the freshman right-hander had appeared in four games and sported a 8.31 ERA. Scheid was much better against Toledo. The freshman worked three innings of scoreless ball, allowing only one hit. Scheid's performance allowed the Irish a chance at a comeback.
"Coach Clink (Sherard Clinkscales) told me last week that Andrew had been throwing real nice in the bullpen and that we had to get him out there," Schrage said. "He was throwing extremely well so we decided to throw him against Toledo tonight. He threw the ball well and that was very encouraging."