Phelps tossed nine innings of two-run ball and a three-run sixth inning was the difference in the Irish's 5-2 victory over West Virginia on Friday night at Frank Eck Stadium. With the biggest crowd of the season on hand, Notre Dame improved to 20-17 on the year and 5-7 in the conference. After starting 1-6 in league play, Notre Dame is now tied for sixth in the Big East.
More importantly, the Irish have won seven of the past eight games. Saturday, Kyle Weiland (3-0, 3.94 ERA) will try to make it eight of nine when the sophomore right-hander takes the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 PM, right after the Blue-Gold spring football game. Phelps's determination, along with some timely offense, added another W in the win column.
"He had that look in his eye like he wanted the ball," Schrage said oh Phelps. "Coach (Sherard Clinkscales) came to me in the sixth and said he was losing it a little bit. Weglarz came to me after the seventh and said he was losing it a little bit. But Phelps kept saying he wanted the ball. We kept letting him go out there. We‘re getting to the point where he‘s smelling wins and he‘s our best guy right now."
In the third inning, Phelps saw how quick the West Virginia offense could strike. The Mountaineers plated two runs in the frame on four hits. Both RBI's were with two outs. Tyler Kuhn's RBI triple to the center field wall and Justin Jenkins' line shot to center field made it 2-0 West Virginia.
That's all the offense Phelps (6-3) would surrender in the complete game gem. The sophomore did not allow a run in his final six innings of work. In the sixth inning, with runners on first and third with two outs, Phelps got Justin Parks to ground out to end the scoring threat. In the seventh, the sophomore hurler struck out Kuhn and Jenkins to retire the side. This was a West Virginia batting lineup that featured eight players hitting .323 or above. In the ninth inning, with a pitch count already in the 130's, Phelps got the Mountaineers out 1-2-3, the last two via the strikeout. In the game, the sophomore allowed seven hits while striking out six. Phelps's pitch count ended at 144 and his ERA moved his ERA to 1.42.
"I knew I was going to be out there," Phelps said. "Coach Clink pulled me aside and told me when I was out there, they were going to let me go 120, 130 pitches. That's what I thought I was at. I didn't know I was in the 140's. I'm pretty sore right now."
After West Virginia got ahead 2-0, Notre Dame quickly responded. The first two batters in the third inning were retired. But the Irish used some two-out magic to even the score. Brett Lilley lined a single to right field to get the ball rolling. Lilley went to third base on A.J. Pollock's base hit and scored on Ross Brezovsky's RBI single to center field. Pollock was plated on West Virginia second baseman Jason Pape's fielding error off the bat of Matt Weglarz.
The deciding frame was the sixth. With Phelps in control on the mound, the Irish mounted a three-run offensive surge off of Levi Maxwell (5-2) to give them all the runs they would need. Mike Dury got it started with a RBI double to the center field wall. Dury would score when Danny Dressman followed suit with a double of his own to give Notre Dame their first lead at 3-2. It would be 4-2 when Dressman scored from second base on another Mountaineer error. Jeremy Barnes made it 5-2 when he stole second, went to third on an errant throw from the catcher and scored on Ryan Smith's RBI groundout. On Tuesday, it was Barnes double in the ninth that sparked the 8-7 win over Toledo. On Wednesday, Weglarz's double in the tenth was what the offense needed in the 1-0 victory over Purdue. Dury's double in the sixth on Friday was the momentum needed for the offensive surge.
"That's how it's got to be and that's how it's been in the past," Dury said about another guy stepping up. "Guys like (Craig) Cooper last year and Steve Sollmann, it wasn't one guy. It was always a new guy. One guy was getting on and then one guy was getting the big hit. That's what we have to continue to do, especially the older guys. It's crunch time and we have to start carrying the load."