Feb. 24, 2006
MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Jeff Samardzija held Air Force to one run in six innings of work and Ross Brezovsky's three-run shot capped off a six-run top of the eighth, as the 22nd-ranked Notre Dame baseball team opened play at the annual Service Academies Classic with an 8-2 victory over the Falcons.
Notre Dame (2-0) - which will return to USA Baseball Stadium on Saturday for a 4:00 p.m. matchup versus the local team from the University of Memphis - faced a 1-0 mid-game deficit before surging to the lead with two runs in the sixth. Steve Andres and fellow senior Greg Lopez provided the key RBI singles in the inning, plating Danny Dressman and Craig Cooper to claim the 2-1 lead.
Samardzija improved to 14-4 in his Notre Dame career, after yielding only the single run (in the fourth) and four hits while walking four, with a pair of strikeouts. The junior righthander - just seven weeks removed from his All-America football season - located 45 of his 76 pitches for strikes (59%) and worked out of several jams, allowing four leadoff batters to reach but holding Air Force to just 1-for-9 batting with runners on base.
Junior Mike Dury and sophomore David Gruener provided the lefthanded relief for the Irish, with Dury setting down the side in the ninth (K) while Gruener had a strikeout of his own in the final two innings.
Brezovsky (2-for-4) joined the Irish shortstop Lopez (2-for-4, 2 RBI, R) and senior leftfielder Matt Bransfield (2 RBI, R, 2B) with multiple-RBI days, as eight Irish players combined on a 10-hit attack. Dressman had a productive day batting from the 2-hole, with the junior centerfielder scoring twice after reaching on a single and three walks. The senior first baseman Cooper also scored twice, after a single and hit-by-pitch.
Air Force (5-4) claimed its brief lead in the fourth, manufacturing the run after Karl Bolt's leadoff walk, a two-out walk by Austin Ferreria and a Billy Adams single down the rightfield line.
Notre Dame ultimately gave Samardzija all the run support the two-sport standout would need in the two-run top of the sixth. Dressman coaxed a full-count walk from junior righthander Mitch Brown (2-2) and Cooper followed with a one-out single up the middle. Andres pulled the next pitch into right field to tie the game and Lopez added his own first-pitch RBI, going the other way with a single through the right side that brought Cooper home for the 2-1 lead.
The Irish batted around in the six-run top of the eighth, with Bransfield and Brezovsky proving to be the "killer-B's" by bringing home five of the runs. An errant throw by the third baseman Ferreria allowed his counterpart Jeremy Barnes to reach from the leadoff spot and Dressman then showed his skill with the bat, placing his lefthanded bunt perfectly down the third-base line to reach on the single.
Air Force then opted to pull Brown - who ultimately was tagged for four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks - for Juan Perez but the freshman righthander plunked Cooper with his first pitch and moments later saw Lopez reach with one out, when his fellow shortstop Geno Salazar threw a little wide on a ball that deflected off the third baseman (Barnes scored on the single). Bransfield then nearly duplicated his first-pitch home run from opening day, launching a ball that hit off the leftfield wall for a two-run double.
Perez fell behind the next batter and the sophomore third baseman Brezovsky jumped on a 2-1 pitch, pulling it into the rightfield crosswind and over the fence for the third home run of his young Notre Dame career.
NOTES - The local ABC affiliate in Memphis will be doing a feature story tonight on Samardzija and a Memphis pitcher who also is a two-sport standout (he doubles as the Tigers kicker) ... the Irish opted to get some different players some game time, with Barnes starting at third, Dressman in center field and Dury at DH (senior Cody Rizzo moved behind the plate, resulting in Andres making a rare start in right field) ... sophomore 3B Brett Lilley, junior C Sean Gaston and senior CF Alex Nettey each were given a day off during the rare four-game trip ... the Irish pitching staff has allowed a total of just two runs in the first two games - matching the 2004 team for the fewest runs allowed in the first two games during the 12-year Paul Mainieri era (the '04 team played just 16 innings in the first two games, due to a rain-shortened game vs. USC) ... the first 11 years of the Mainieri era had seen the Irish yield an average of 14 runs in the first two games of the season ... every other Mainieri-era team, with the exception of 2000 (5) and '04 (2), had allowed at least 11 runs in the first two games ... ND is 12-2 all-time at the Service Academies Classic (previously playing in 1992, '97, 97 and '00) ... the ND pitchers also have combined to allow just a .226 opponent batting average through the first two games of the '06 season.
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