Irish Capitalize On Saturday

SOUTH BEND - Three third inning gifts from Seton Hall and timely hitting by Notre Dame was the ballgame on Saturday afternoon. The Irish batted around in the frame, benefiting from three errors, scoring five runs in its 6-4 victory over the Pirates at Frank Eck Stadium.

The Irish, a 3-1 winner on Friday, have now won four straight Big East series, climbing from 12th in the conference standings all the way to fifth this weekend. Notre Dame improves to 27-20 overall, 10-9 in the league, and will go for its first sweep of the season on Sunday. The Irish have won nine of their last 12 Big East games.

"You want to be playing your best ball at the end of the season," coach Dave Schrage said. The Irish have two more weekend series against second-place Louisville and 11th-place Connecticut before the Big East tournament. "Right now we feel really good on how we're playing. We just want to keep it going."

A three-run homer off the bat of Greg Miller in the top of the third had the Pirates feeling good early, going up 3-0.

The Irish quickly responded, with five runs and five hits in their half to take the lead for good.

"It kind of just sent a message to the other team that we came to play," said A.J. Pollock, who had a game high three hits and two runs scored. "That was huge for us."

Brett Lilley singled with one out in the third. A single by Pollock and a fielding error by centerfielder Dan Lopez advanced the runners to second and third. Ross Brezovsky's groundout scored Lilley. Then in what should've ended the inning, a ground ball hit by Matt Weglarz to short was thrown away by Mike Young scoring Pollock. Then a line drive to leftfield by Jeremy Barnes that also should've ended the frame was dropped by Michael Rogers, and Weglarz scored from first. Danny Dressman and Ryan Smith added two-out RBI singles to give the Irish a two-run cushion.

"We took advantage of some of their mistakes today," Schrage said. "We've had so many balls caught in the outfield, it was nice to see one drop even though it fell out of his glove. The thing that was big about that inning is even after that ball was dropped, we got two more hits after that and that was big. Ryan Smith and Dressman came up with some big two-out singles which we haven't been doing a lot of, getting two out hits."

The Irish lineup had 11 hits off Seton Hall (19-22, 5-12) starter Dan Merklinger (4-6), but only two of the six runs given up by the left-hander were earned.

"His stuff was really good today, but we adjusted really well after the second inning," Pollock said.

The Irish added an insurance run in the fourth inning, a sacrifice fly from Weglarz scoring Pollock.

Schrage was hoping to get five innings out of starting pitcher Dan Kapala, but the senior right-hander struggled with his control. It was evident in the fifth inning when he walked Michael Rogers on four pitches to start the inning. Rogers later scored on a John Walsh single, and Seton Hall would go on to have the go-ahead run at the plate with two outs.

That was it for Kapala, as Schrage called on junior Joey Williamson to get the Irish out of trouble. With a 6-4 lead and runners on first and second, Williamson got Dan McDonald to fly out escaping further damage.

Kapala went 4.2 innings, giving up three hits, four earned runs with four strikeouts and three walks. Williamson (4-2) was lights out in relief, effectively using his slider to fan six in 4.1 innings. Seton Hall could only muster two hits off of him.

"We really thought going into the day that (Williamson) would be a good match up against them because his velocity is up there and he is a slider guy, and they have a lot of guys that pull off," Schrage said.

Sunday's series finale will begin at noon. Left-hander Sam Elam (0-1) will be making his first Big East start of the season. Top Stories