WEST HAVEN – Through four innings Monday evening, the Notre Dame baseball team was unable to string together any clutch hits. The Green Knights more than made up for it in the last three frames.
Scoring 11 times, including three in each of the fifth and seventh innings and five in the sixth, Notre Dame rallied to defeat cross-town rival West Haven, 11-4, Monday evening in a Southern Connecticut Conference Quinnipiac Division contest at Piurek Field.
“They were huge,” Notre Dame coach Don Martone said of his team’s clutch hits. “We stuck with our preparation. We know what we are prepared to do. We were able to get some big hits. We talk about quality at bats every day.”
Senior Ben LaCroix, who got things going with a double in the fifth inning, reached base four times with a walk, double and two triples, scored three times and drove in four runs to lead an 11-hit attack.
Matt Montano singled twice, doubled and drove in three runs and Evan Lumpinski had a pair of doubles and a single to go along with one run batted in as Notre Dame improved to 11-4 on the year with the season sweep of the Westies.
“We were slow coming out of the gate,” LaCroix said. “We do a good job in practice with quality at bats. We are not afraid to hit with two strikes. We have a good approach.”
Trailing 1-0 after West Haven’s Jason Wilkerson singled in the third to score Mike Savino, the Green Knights took the lead for good with three runs in the fifth.
Dylan Reynolds, who scored three runs, started the rally with a one-out walk off West Haven starter Adrian Urbina and LaCroix doubled deep to right.
Montano evened the contest with a sacrifice fly to left to score Reynolds, Zach Ardito’s single brought home LaCroix and Evan Lumpinski doubled to left to plate Ardito for a 3-1 Notre Dame lead.
“The bottom line is this,” West Haven coach Ron Luneau said after his team fell to 6-9. “We came out for five innings and it was a great game. Then, we made some mistakes and you can’t do that against a good team. They mistakes opened the floodgates.”
West Haven had a golden opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the inning off Ardito, but only pushed across one run.
Savino, who had three hits in the contest, led off with a triple and scored when Lou Masselli reached on an error. Wilkerson hit a one-out single, but the rally ended when Alex Tejero’s pop out to first was turned into an inning-ending double play.
“To beat a good team, you have to play very good,” Luneau said. “You can’t just play good.”
Sparked by the double play, the Green Knights put the game away with five runs in the sixth. LaCroix hit a one-out triple to score Rolando Marcano and Reynolds, Montano singled to score LaCroix, and Ryan Muir delivered the final run of the inning with a single to right.
“Ben LaCroix had some quality at bats,” Martone said. “That is all we work on every day in practice. My assistant coaches go a great job with that. We go over situations every day. It has been beneficial.”
A triple by Lacroix in the seventh delivered Marcano and Reynolds before LaCroix scored on Montano’s double for an 11-2 lead.
“We have seven returning starters from last year,” LaCroix said. “We have almost the whole lineup returning. That has been big.”
Notre Dame’s Ardito started and went the first 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs, none earned, on seven hits. Jon DavidCascio went the rest of the way, allowing two runs on two hits, while striking out two and walking one.
West Haven’s Jake Kelly closed the scoring in the seventh with a two-run homer to left.