By: Brad Vangeli
Notre Dame trailed Princeton 3-0 after two innings on Thursday at Notre Dame High School, but scored six unanswered runs to come away with a 6-3 victory to stay undefeated.
After a first inning where both teams left the bases loaded, Princeton got the scoring started in the second on an RBI single by Eli Okoye. The Little Tigers had a chance to tack on more, but Irish starting pitcher Nick Feretic forced Owen Seals into a 5-4-3 double play with runners on the corners to end the inning.
Feretic was in good shape to keep the Irish deficit at 1-0 after three innings, but an error by shortstop Ryan Mains with two outs and a wild pitch allowed two unearned runs to score to give Princeton a 3-0 lead. It was the second error committed by Mains in the first three innings, but he would respond after that, making no errors on his last four fielding chances and reaching base in all four plate appearances (2-2, BB, Sac Bunt, SB)
“Baseball is like life,” Notre Dame head coach Joe Drulis said. “You’ve got bumps in the road and bad things are going to happen. It’s how you react to it.”
After collecting just two hits the first time through the lineup, Notre Dame’s bats finally woke up in the third inning. The Irish scored four runs on five hits, including RBI singles from Jake Kmiec and Christian DeLorenzo (2-3, RBI) and an RBI double by Kyle Rosica (2-2, 2B, BB, R, RBI).
Despite only one hit in the fourth inning, Notre Dame added two more runs on a Robbie Buecker sacrifice fly and another RBI single by Kmiec, who finished 2-for-3 with two RBI’s.
“Their pitcher (Jason Ramirez) did a good job in the first inning keeping us off balance,” Drulis said, “but then we did make an adjustment and did a lot better the second time through.”
“After we were down 3-0, I said, ‘We have five more at-bats, let’s chip away. We can’t change the past, so let’s look forward.’ They did that and responded well,” said Drulis.
Feretic, who finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base, struggled on the mound through the first three innings, so Joe Drulis turned to right-hander Steven Graver. The junior put together his best outing of the season, firing four shutout innings to pick up his second win of the year.
“I was just keeping my fastball low,” Graver said. “The team gave me four runs that gave us the lead before I came in, so I just tried to keep it.”
“Steve is really like one of our starting pitchers,” Drulis said. “but we had a short week and had to make a call to the bullpen and he came up big for us. He was like a ground ball machine.”
Graver retired the first eight hitters he faced and 12 out of 15. He finished with three strikeouts while allowing one hit and hitting two batters. He induced seven ground ball outs and two fly outs.
“It feels good always having good defense behind you,” Graver said. “You know you don’t have to do a lot and just put the ball over the plate and let them hit it.”
The loss for Princeton drops them to 3-7 overall and 3-3 in the CVC Colonial, while Notre Dame moves their record to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the CVC Colonial, as they sit tied with Allentown (also 5-0) for first place. It’s been a complete team effort so far for the Irish to get to this point.
“It’s the players buying into hitting line drives and not trying to hit home runs,” Drulis said. “We have a lot of talented players and it’s easy to get into the ‘me” syndrome, but it’s all about the team and playing together. We’re putting together good pitching, solid defense and timely hitting.”