Jon Alfera singled home T.J. Wright with the game-winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to lift Notre Dame to a dramatic 3-2 victory over Lincoln at Frank Loria Field on Monday.
The win lifted the Irish to a 5-1, while the hard-luck Cougars fell to 2-4.
Wright had led off the inning with a single to left. He then went to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a groundout. Lincoln coach Tom Hunter then ordered intentional walks to load the bases.
After another out was recorded, Alfera came through with his game-winning hit.
"We had a thousand chances to win the game before that, but we could never quite get it done until Alfera came up with the big hit," Notre Dame coach Mark Starkey said. "This was a tough one, but a good win for us."
The Cougars fell despite a gutsy pitching performance from sophomore Levi Maxwell. The lanky hurler gave up 12 hits but continually pitched out of jams to keep his team in contention.
"Levi did a whale of a job out there," Hunter said. "He was throwing just as hard at the end as he was at the beginning.
"But we could never get any timely hits when we had our chances to separate from them."
The Irish took a 1-0 lead in the first when Jake Minges scored an unearned run on an overthrow of third base. They increased the lead in the third on an RBI single by Steve Cross.
Lincoln came back with a pair of runs in the fourth to tie the game.
Josh Cunningham led off the inning with a home run, and the Cougars plated another run on Kyle Hurst's sacrifice fly.
But Starkey turned to Jake Minges for relief in the fifth inning. The senior hurler didn't disappoint his coach, limiting Lincoln to just two hits over the final five innings. He struck out seven to pick up the win.
"Jake came in and threw real hard," Starkey said. "He did a great job of mixing his pitches."
Billy Swiger had three hits to pace the Irish attack, while Cross and Alfera both had two hits.
Catcher Joel Richardson led the Cougars with two hits.
"We just can't seem to catch a break," Hunter said. "That's the second time his season we've lost 3-2 to them."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.