Irish Come Up Big

This weekend, Notre Dame would find out a lot about how far they've come since the early season struggles. The Irish battled Rutgers in a three-game set in New Jersey and the Scarlet Knights came into the series at the top of the Big East standings. After splitting a doubleheader on Saturday, the rubber match on Sunday had some dramatic late-inning Irish magic.

After a Rutgers home run tied the contest up at 4-all in the eighth inning, Jeremy Barnes' RBI triple in the ninth was the clutch hit in Notre Dame's 6-4 victory over the Scarlet Knights. The Irish took two of three from Rutgers to improve to 24-19 on the season and 8-9 in conference action. Notre Dame is now tied for sixth in the league standings with Cincinnati. The top eight teams qualify for the Big East Tournament. The Irish have now won three straight conference series and 11 of 14 overall.

"Every team wants to be playing their best ball heading into the tournament," head coach Dave Schrage said, who earned his 500th victory on Sunday. "I like the way we've been playing the past three weeks. I'm real proud of this team and hopefully it continues."

Rutgers (25-16, 13-5) appeared to be on their way to victory. Protecting a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, Notre Dame had one on with two outs. After A.J. Pollock walked and stole second, there were two runners in scoring position for Ross Brezovsky. The junior put the Irish ahead 4-3 with a two-run triple to left center field. Brezovsky was 2-for-3 on the day.

The Scarlet Knights quickly tied the contest. Jon Gassard hit a one-out round tripper off of Joey Williamson to make it 4-all heading into the ninth inning. It set the stage for a heart-stopping ninth inning.

Danny Dressman led off the frame with a single and it didn't take him long to round the bases. Barnes came up next and lined a triple to center field off of Chris Lillis (2-2), scoring Dressman to make it 5-4 Irish. Barnes would eventually score on Mike Dury's sacrifice fly to put Notre Dame up 6-4.

"It seems to be a different player for us every game," Schrage said. "We could have got deflated after the home run. But a credit to our team. Dressman leads off with the single and then Barnes knocks him in with a triple. Dury's at-bat was also big to get another insurance run."

Rutgers tried to mount one more rally. The Scarlet Knights put the tying runs on base with one out against Eric Maust. The freshman right-hander struck out the next batter for the second out and was replaced by Sam Elam. The sophomore left-hander struck out Tom Edwards to end the game and earn his first save of the season. Williamson (3-2) took the win, pitching 2.2 innings in relief of starter Dan Kapala.

***The Notre Dame Sports Information Department contributed to this report. Top Stories