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Nicholas' homer lifts ND

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

It took four innings for everything to come together for Notre Dame.

It was four innings until the bats got going, and four innings before pitcher Steve Cross seemed to settle into his groove Thursday.

Together, they helped give the Irish one of their biggest wins of the season -- a 4-2 victory over Gilmer County in prep baseball action at Frank Loria Field.

"It's only a regular season game, but I think it's got to help the kids' confidence," Notre Dame coach Mark Starkey said. "I think now they know that this team can be beaten in the tournament.

"We started out a little shaky, but we seemed to settle down and made some good plays behind Steve."

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Notre Dame's Jeremy Wright and Mike Nicholas came up with key hits to put the Irish (13-4) up for good.

With one out, Wright drilled a 3-2 fastball off the fence in left-center to score Jake Minges from first base and tie the score.

One batter later, Nicholas blasted the 1-0 pitch deep over the left field fence for a two-run home run.

The two-run cushion was more than enough for Cross who didn't allow a hit after the fourth inning and pitched a perfect fifth and sixth inning.

With one runner on in the bottom of the seventh, Cross got Andy Williamson to ground out to Minges to end the game.

"I was a little scared at first," Cross said. "We made a couple of errors in the field and got ourselves into a little trouble, but they settled down and it seemed to calm me down, too.

"I knew that they would make the plays behind me. Jake (Minges) and Mark (Jones) made some really big plays. I definitely couldn't have done it without the defense tonight."

Nicholas' single down the third base line in the first inning gave Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. Gilmer County (17-2) took the lead in the top of the third.

With two outs, the Titans hit four consecutive singles to take the lead.

Patrick Morrison singled up the middle to score Andy Williamson.

A batter later, Morrison scored on Jeremy Proctor's bloop single to right.

"I don't think we played badly," Gilmer County coach David Jaffre said. "I thought we hit the ball, played good defense and got good pitching. Notre Dame just did it better than us, especially the hitting.

"I really don't know how we'll bounce back after this. It's a concern. Right now, the kids are pretty depressed and think it's the end of the world. I don't want this to carry over, but I do want them to remember how this feels the next time they come here."

Notre Dame plays host to Tygarts Valley today at 4 p.m., while Gilmer County is home against Hundred on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444.

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