After playing solid defense throughout the first two games in their series against St. John’s, the Irish baseball team imploded in the top of the eighth and watched a 4-0 lead evaporate in minutes. A wild pitch, some bloop singles, and an error ruined an impressive outing by Irish right-hander Jeff Manship.
Manship appeared to be cruising on the mound despite some wildness, but despite the control problems the junior had allowed zero runs while scattering just six hits before the defining eighth inning.
A leadoff walk and a single chased Manship from the game in the eighth, and then the wheels came off for the Irish.
Five runs, five hits, an error and a wild pitch seemed to spell doom for Notre Dame as suddenly the Red Storm came to life to take the lead 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
But the Irish wouldn’t be denied. Irish catcher Sean Gaston led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, Ross Brezovsky tripled to right-center scoring Gaston, and then former walk-on Alex Nettey took the first offering from Red Storm pitcher Rich Armento and tattooed it over the left field wall for the first walk-off homer of his career.
”You start feeling like you might have some special,” said Irish coach Paul Mainieri after Notre Dame’s dramatic win.
Brezovsky, despite crushing his triple, said he didn’t quite do what Mainieri wanted him to do in his crucial at-bat.
”Coach told me to take a strike, fake a bunt, then hit it out of here,” Brezovsky said. “When I got to third base, (Mainieri) said, ‘I told you to hit it out of here.’”
Brezovsky didn’t have long to joke with Mainieri at third as Nettey stepped up and ended the game with his first swing.
”I figured he’d let me swing,” said Nettey of Mainieri after the most spectacular at-bat of his career. “I hadn’t been swinging the bat well all series. I told myself to relax and let come to me.”
It came and went and the Irish now enjoy a two-game lead in Big East standings.
”It was one of the best come-from-behind wins we’ve ever had here since I’ve been here,” said Mainieri. “Here’s Nettey, who came here as a walk-on, waited two years for a chance to play regularly, and now he has a career moment he’ll never forget.”
Neither will the 3,000 plus in attendance for Saturday’s game.