March 10, 2005
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Sophomore righthander Jeff Samardzija turned in a strong start while Matt Edwards and Craig Cooper gave a 3-2 game some breathing room with home runs in the bottom of the 8th, as the Notre Dame baseball team halted its rare five-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over Southwest Missouri State in Thursday's continuing action at Wolff Stadium in the Alamo City Irish Baseball Classic.
(Note that additional notes and gameday photos have been added to this recap.)
Thursday's other game saw the local team Texas-San Antonio beat Oral Roberts by the same score (6-4), clinching a spot in Saturday's championship game for the Roadrunners. The winner of Friday's early game between Notre Dame and ORU (an 11-0 winner over SMS on day-one) will meet UTSA in the title game (4:00 p.m. CST) while the loser will face SMS in Saturday's noon consolation matchup. Junior lefthander Tom Thornton is slated to take the mound in Friday's showdown with ORU.
Notre Dame's defense had coughed up 11 unearned runs during the five-game losing streak but the Irish (6-5) had a strong game in the field vs. SMS (4-8), making just one error in the ninth that did not affect the two runs that scored.
Samardzija (2-0) - who had a rocky first inning Sunday vs. Rice at the Round Rock Classic (4 runs, game later rained out) - was noticeably sharper in his fourth start of the season. The two-sport star allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in 5.1 innings of work while striking out four SMS batters in his 96-pitch stint.
The Bears scored once in the 6th versus Samardzija and had the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position when Samardzija's classmate Dan Kapala took the mound for the challenging one-out relief stint. Senior rightfield Jake Manning, who had homered earlier in the game, dug in at the plate knowing that a long fly ball would tie the game - but the hard-throwing Kapala caught him looking at a full-count pitch for the second out. Chris Taylor then sent the next pitch up the middle and second baseman Brett Lilley stepped on the bag to end the threat.
Junior righthander Ryan Doherty logged one of the longest outings of his career (2.2 innings) to pick up his second save of the season and 15th of his career. Doherty yielded a pair of late runs and three total hits while striking out four of the 11 batters he faced (he has yet to walk a batter in 6.2 innings this season).
Inconsistent pitching and untimely errors had led to high run totals for the opponents during Notre Dame's five-game losing streak (9-13 in each game, average of 11 per game) but the Irish pitchers and fielders did their part in the 6-4 win, helping two early runs, a single run in the 4th and the late home runs hold up for the victory.
The defense included a new look at the corners, as Edwards moved from first to third (where he played for most of the '03 season) while Cooper - a regular starter in the outfield - made his first career start with the Irish at first base.
Cooper entered Spring Break mired batting just .222 in an early-season streak but he is batting .412 (7-for-17) over the course of the four games in Round Rock and San Antonio, including a 3-for-4 effort vs. SMS (2 RBI, 2 R). Edwards (2-for-3) continued his strong career hitting on Spring Break while junior shortstop Greg Lopez hit 2-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs from the 9-hole. Junior leftfielder Steve Andres also halted his 2-for-23 start by batting 2-for-4 from the cleanup spot.
Notre Dame claimed the early lead with two runs in the 2nd. Sophomore DH Mike Dury drew a four-pitch walk with one out and moved up on Cooper's single through the right side of the infield. The Bears then had a chance to end the inning on a leftside groundball but second baseman Matt Lawson threw high of first base on the potential double play (allowing Dury to score and Cody Rizzo to take second). Rizzo stole third before Lopez flared an opposite0field single into right field, playing Rizzo on the full-count hit.
The Irish answered Manning's home run with a score in the bottom of the 4th, sparked by Cooper's first-pitch single (again through the right side) with one out. Rizzo sent the next pitch into right field and Lopez plated the runner with a groundout to the left side.
Edwards opened the bottom of the 8th by depositing a first-pitch home run over the left fence (his fourth home run of the season and 24th of his career), duplicating his effort from the night before when he hit an 8th-inning grand slam to similar spot on the grass berm. Andres then won a battle with sophomore righthander starter Brett Sinkbeil (5 R/4 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks), pulling a full-count pitch through the right side.
Freshman Jake Shafer was called out of the bullpen (ending Sinkbeil's 106--pitch day) and Sean Gaston bunted pinch-runner Danny Dressman to second. Two batters later, Cooper connected on a 1-1 pitch, sending his first home run of the season and 11th of his career onto the leftfield berm.
SPRING BREAK STAT LEADERS - Edwards contiunues his impressive career Spring Break play, leading the team with .500 batting in the four games during the '05 trip (8-for-16, 9 RBI, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 2 BB, E) ... just two others are batting above .250 on the Spring Break trip: Cooper (.412, 7-for-17, 3 RBI, 3 R, HR, 2B, BB, 2 Ks) and Lilley (.364, 4-for-11, RBI, 4 R, 3 BB, 4 HBP, 4 Ks, SAC) ... ND is batting .267 on the trip and has been outscored 36-20, with a .967 team fielding pct. (5 Es), 19 walks and 24 Ks ... the ND staff owns a 7.75 ERA on the Spring Break trip (.344 opp. avg., 22 Ks, 18 BB).
AVOIDING 0-and-2 - Notre Dame opened 0-2 at the Round Rock Classic but the win over SMS avoided that record in San Antonio ... the Irish have started 0-2 at a regular-season tournament just four times in 28 regular-season tournaments during the Mainieri era (no Mainieri team has gone 0-2 in a postseason tournament, spanning 19 conference and NCAA tournaments).
TOURNAMENT HISTORY - ND owns a 24-6 all-time record as the host of tournaments in San Antonio during the Mainieri era, winning the event in '96, '99, '01, '02, '04 (Baylor won in '95 and Creighton in '97 while the '98 IBC was rained out) ... the Irish are 15-2 in their past 17 Irish Baseball Classic games ... ND now owns a 72-50 all-time record in Texas, including 37-19 in the Mainieri era ... the Irish are 19-5 in their past 24 games at regular-season tournaments ... ND also has compiled a 56-22-1 record in Spring Break games during the Maineri era (17-5 in the past 22 and 11-4 in the past 15 games played in Texas).
SPRING IN HIS STEP - Senior 1B/3B Matt Edwards now owns a .440 career batting avg. with 27 RBI and 4 HRs in 20 career Spring Break games (33-for-75, 12 R, 11 Ks, 5 2B, SAC, 11 BB, 4 HBP, 5 E, 2-3 SB).
TALL TALES - Junior All-America closer Ryan Doherty is on pace to set or challenge four ND career records, three of them longstanding marks ... the 7-foot-1 RHP owns 9-inning career averages of 12.72 Ks and 6.10 hits (on pace to break the records of 12.66 and 6.27, set by Dan McGinn from 1964-65) ... Doherty's career K-to-walk ratio continues to rise (4.46) and is well above the ND record held by his former teammate Chris Nielse (4.09).
LOPEZ THE LEADER - Junior SS Greg Lopez and team captain has been a stellar leader for the ND squad throughout the 2005 season, playing the field's toughest position without a single error (in 48 chances) while fielding his spot alongside a new double-play partner (freshman Brett Lilley) ... Lopez - whose father Jorge's parents live near the San Antonio area - ranks 2nd on the '05 team in batting avg. (.355) and RBI (9) and again has turned in several unheralded plays, with two sac. bunts and a pair of asac. flies.
OMAHA MEMORIES - Thursday's game featured two program's that have made recent College World Series appearances, as standard bearers for the nation's Midwest and Northern teams ... ND won its 2002 Regional (after knocking off the Regional's top seed South Alabama) before winning at the nation's top seed Florida State to earn a berth in the '02 CWS ... one year later, SMS won the Reional at Nebraska and the Super Regional at Ohio State to make its own historic CWS appearance.
FUNGOS - ND extended the program's second-longest scoring streak to 158 games ... junior RF Cody Rizzo scored his 100th career run with the Irish ... Liiley was hit-by-pitch for the 10th time this season (Rizzo is the only ND player ever to total more than 15 HBPs in a season, with 28 in '03 and 21 in '04) ... ND has 29 HBPs as a team (2.6/gm, on pace for 148 in the '05 regular season) ... the '04 squad set the team record with 105 HBPs (good for 5th in NCAA history) ... the only previous games in the ND-SMS series came in a 1983 two-game split (at SMS) ... Oral Roberts holds a 9-3 series edge vs. ND, with the Irish winning a 12-3 game at Tulane (in '73) before the Eagles won nine straight from '73-'85 (including games in '83 and '85 as foes in the Midwest City Conference) ... the 1996 Irish Baseball Classic at Wolff Stadium saw ND beat ORU 6-2 and again in the 10-6 title game.
Southwest Missouri 0-0-0 1-0-1 0-0-2 - 4 9 1
Home Runs: Jake Manning, SMS (solo in 4th, 1st of season); Matt Edwards, ND (solo in 8th; 4th of season, 24th of career); Craig Cooper, ND (1 on in 8th; 1st of season, 11th of career).