Dustin Eck hurled seven solid innings and a Notre Dame comeback was a little too late as the Franklin College took down the Irish 4-3 at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame falls to 25-20 on the year but still has won 12 of the past 16 games. The Irish will try to re-find the momentum this weekend when they host a critical Big East series against Seton Hall. The Pirates (19-20, 5-10) will be in South Bend for three games, starting on Friday at 6:05 PM. On Wednesday against Franklin College, Notre Dame fell victim to Eck's efficient pitching performance and three more fielding errors, which led to two unearned runs.
"That's baseball," head coach Dave Schrage said. "Give their pitchers credit. They made good pitches. There are a few things that didn't go our way. That's baseball and that's what makes it so great. Anyone can win.
"They were playing the big school but they were playing with a lot more enthusiasm. Their kids played with a lot more heart than we did. Our guys didn't want it as bad. They showed up, looked at the opponent and said, ‘Oh, we're going to win.' That's happened to us. We're 1-2 against non-Division I teams this year."
The Irish mounted a late final rally. Down 4-1 going into the ninth, Notre Dame loaded the bases with nobody out. Brett Lilley was hit by a pitch, the 74th of his career. A.J. Pollock and Ross Brezovsky both singled to give Matt Weglarz a golden chance to chip away at the deficit. Franklin College relieved Eck and brought in Andy Clark to get out of the jam. Eck (6-4) pitched seven innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on six hits. The senior left-hander induced 13 fly ball outs.
Unfortunately, Weglarz hit into some bad luck. The fifth-year senior launched a rocket shot grounder at the second baseman, who turned it into a 4-6-3 double play. Lilley did score on the play to make it 4-2 Grizzlies.
"It's been a frustrating thing," Schrage said. "We hit a lot of balls hard. Wegs can't hit the ball any harder. If the ball goes through, all of sudden it's 4-3 with nobody out and men on first and third."On the next play, Franklin College second baseman Nick Ostergaard's error allowed Pollock to cross the plate to cut the deficit to 4-3. After Danny Dressman singled to put the tying run at second base, Mike Dury flied out to center field to end any more scoring chances.
In the ninth, the Irish tried one more time to work some late-inning magic. Lilley reached on an infield single. The junior moved to second base on a passed ball and was in scoring position with two outs. But Clark got Pollock looking for the third and final out of the contest to pick up his second save of the season.
A big positive for Schrage was the performance of Eric Maust. The freshman right-hander came out of the bullpen in the third inning and pitched six shutout innings to keep Notre Dame in the contest. Maust allowed four hits and did not walk a single batter while striking out four.
"Eric Maust came in and did a super job for us," Schrage said. "He really did a tremendous job with the six shutout innings."
Franklin College (22-14) got going early. The Grizzlies scored two runs in the first inning to take a quick 2-0 lead off of Notre Dame starter Andrew Scheid. The big blast came with two outs. After Scheid put two on with no outs, the freshman right-hander battled back to get the next two batters. But Ryan East's double to right center field scored two runs to give the Grizzlies the advantage. Both the runs were unearned because of Lilley's fielding error on the opening at-bat of the contest.
It was more of the same in the second inning. Franklin College plated two more runs off of Scheid to increase the lead to 4-0. With runners on first and third, the Grizzlies called for a steal at second base. When catcher Matt Weglarz threw the ball to the bag, Lilley cut the ball off and tried to nail Lance LaBonte, who was breaking for home. LaBonte beat the throw home to make it 3-0 Franklin College and it was 4-0 when Lance Noel came through with a RBI single. On the night, Noel was 5-for-5. Scheid (0-1) was replaced after the second. The freshman's line: two innings pitched, five hits, four runs, two earned, zero walks and two strikeouts.