Mountaineers Hit Irish Hard

SOUTH BEND - West Virginia's potent lineup finally raked in South Bend on Sunday. After being held to just eight combined runs by the Notre Dame pitching staff on Friday and Saturday, the Mountaineers, ranked 14th nationally in runs scored, hammered out 20 hits in a 16-7 victory over the Irish at Frank Eck Stadium, salvaging a game in a pivotal Big East series.

The Irish (21-18, 6-8) held a 10-game winning streak over West Virginia (23-13, 6-8) coming into the game. The 16 runs were the most by a visitor since Connecticut scored 19 in 2001. Both teams are tied for seventh in the conference standings. A Notre Dame win would've had them tied for fifth in the league. Eight teams qualify for the postseason tournament.

"We had shut them down for the most part the first two days," Notre Dame manager Dave Schrage said. The Irish took the first two games of the weekend, 5-2 and 17-6. "It was a hitter's day, the wind was blowing out, we were 7-7 going into the seventh.

That's when the floodgates opened. A routine fly ball off the bat of the league's top hitter Justin Jenkins to leadoff the frame, was lost in the sun by centerfielder Danny Dressman for a double against reliever Dan Kapala (0-4). After Austin Markel popped out, Jenkins reached third on a wild pitch and scored on Trent Ridgley's bunt single. A double by Vince Belnome plated Ridgley. A Mike Schmidt single scored Belnome, making it a 10-7 ballgame.

West Virginia went on to score a run off Wade Korpi in the eighth, and another five, four earned, against Jess Stewart in the ninth.

"That was the difference in the game, we just didn‘t pitch well today," said Schrage, who's pitching staff entered today's contest ranked 11th nationally in earned run average. "I think they made some adjustments against us that we didn't adjust back to today. But our pitching has done it all year, so I'm not going to, we've pitched well but we just didn't pitch well today. When you give up 20 hits, you're not going to win many games."

The Irish were firmly in control 3-1 early, as Ross Brezovsky's two-out single was the big hit in a three-run first inning. Freshman Ryan Smith's first career homerun in the second, gave Notre Dame a three-run cushion.

Notre Dame freshman right-hander Eric Maust, who was making his first career Big East start and third overall after coming out of the bullpen most of the year, retired 10-straight West Virginia hitters at one point before losing his command in a four-run fourth inning.

Maust didn't survive the fifth, as Jordon Yost's second straight two-run double in as many innings gave West Virginia a 7-6 lead. Maust's line, 4.2 innings, seven runs, five earned on eight hits.

The Irish came back to take the lead twice in the game, but couldn't keep the bats going against relieve pitcher Chris Enourato. Enourato (2-1) went 5.2 innings, giving up just one run on three hits, after starter Kenny Durst was knocked around for six earned runs in 3.1 innings.

"He threw his sliders for strikes and that kept us off balance a bit," Schrage said. "The other guys they pitched in the other two games of the series weren't able to locate their breaking stuff for strikes and we were kind of sitting on their fastball."

Smith and Brezovsky each had two RBIs for the Irish. Leadoff man Brett Lilley's two-out RBI single in the sixth, made the score 7-7.

Yost had a game-high four RBIs. Schmidt, Belnome, Markel and Adam White each drove in a pair, as West Virginia had seven doubles, the most ever by a visiting team at Frank Eck Stadium.

Schrage and the Irish obviously would've liked to have swept today, but they have still won seven-of-nine to get back into conference contention. At one point, the team sat at 1-6 in league play, in last place.

"We have a tough schedule ahead," Schrage said. "We're going to have to play Rutgers and Louisville, the top two teams right now in the league on the road, so that made today's game pretty big." Top Stories