Matt Weglarz launched a ninth-inning pitch from Joe Skinner over the left field wall for the walk-off home run to give Notre Dame a 4-3 victory over UIC. In a contest that saw a combined 11 hits and five fielding errors, it was Weglarz's blast that allowed the Irish to improve to 25-19 on the season, including winners of 12 of 15 games. Tomorrow, Notre Dame will take on Franklin College at Frank Eck Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 PM and freshman Andrew Scheid (0-0, 4.50 ERA) will be the starter. After taking two of three from Big East-leader Rutgers this past weekend, a round-tripper was the difference in another Notre Dame win.
"I think we're 4-0 in one-run games since the Cincinnati loss (back on April 6th)," head coach Dave Schrage said. "Our kids are playing with more confidence. That evolves over the season as you start to win. That's how you build confidence and they don't think there are going to lose. It's a good thing."
Brett Graffy (3-2) pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to give the Irish a shot at the win. It didn't take long for Notre Dame to take advantage. Weglarz stepped up to the plate already with an 0-for-2 day. But the Irish catcher sent the home fans happy when he launched a leadoff offering from Skinner (2-5) deep over the left field wall. It was a no-doubter as UIC left fielder Micky Pingree barely moved watching the ball sail over his head. It was the team's sixth game out of seven with a home run after going 14 straight without one. Weglarz's round tripper was his fourth of the season and easily his biggest of the season.
"He hung me that pitch earlier in the at-bat," Weglarz said. "(Mike) Dury and some other guys said he was hanging that pitch. I wasn't sitting on it but looking for it. He threw me one on the inside corner and I turned on it."
Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead in the first inning. The Irish had the bases loaded with two outs when Jeremy Barnes lined a hot shot single into left field to score A.J. Pollock for a quick 1-0 advantage. UIC responded in the top of third off of Notre Dame starter Wade Korpi when Nick Rainwater's RBI groundout tied the contest up at 1-all. Korpi was relieved after the five innings of work, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out three.
The Irish struck back in the bottom of the third. Ross Brezovsky reached on an error by Rainwater to lead off the frame. Matt Weglarz was hit by a pitch to put two on with no outs. After Danny Dressman sacrifice bunted the players up a base, a wild pitch from Grant Kohlstaedt allowed Brezovsky to score to make it 2-1 Notre Dame. The Irish increased the lead to 3-1 when Barnes came through with an RBI groundout for his second RBI of the game.
UIC got even with single-run frames in the fifth and sixth. In the fifth inning, Jake Carr doubled down the left field line to lead it off. Carr would go to third on a passed ball from Weglarz and scored when Weglarz sent the throw into left field. The Flames took advantage in the sixth with another shaky defensive play. Larry Gempp, Jr. doubled with one out and then stole second. After Graffy struck out the next batter, David Cales sent a hot shot down to Pollock. The freshman third baseman was unable to come up with the ball and Gempp scored from second to tie it up at 3-all.
This would be the only run Graffy would allow. The sophomore right-hander hurled four innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits. Graffy's outing kept the score even from innings seven through nine. Combine this effort with Korpi‘s five innings of two-run ball and Notre Dame got two solid performances from the pitching staff.
"The biggest positive of the night were Graffy and Korpi," Schrage said. "Wade looked a lot more like Wade tonight and Graffy came in and threw four innings and allowed an unearned run. As we go along in the season, not to think about the conference tournament yet, but you're going to need guys to win there, especially in an eight-team tournament. They were encouraging tonight."