March 11, 2006
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Craig Cooper and Danny Dressman combined to bat 7-for-10 from the top of the lineup and Cody Rizzo capped Notre Dame's 14-hit day with a grand slam, as the Irish baseball team provided more than enough run support to help provide local product Jeff Manship with his first win of the season - 16-2 over Iowa - in continuing action at the UTSA Express Classic.
(Note: look for more photos from Saturday's game included with Sunday's pregame notes.)
Manship (1-0) - who fashioned a dominating prep career at nearby Reagan High School - earlier had logged two solid starts but failed to pick up victories in those games, with a late error leading to Notre Dame's week-one loss versus Oklahoma (4-3) while Manship's second start of 2006 came in the 2-0, 10-inning loss to Arizona. That all changed on Saturday afternoon at Wolff Stadium, as Manship watched his teammates rack up runs while allowing just two runs on four hits, striking out six and walking none in six full innings of work.
The junior righthander located nearly 70% (48 of 73) of his pitches for strikes and now owns a 6-to-1 season strikeout-to-walk ratio (24:4) in 17 innings. The highly-regarded pro prospect has compiled a 2.12 season ERA while allowing just nine hits and a .153 opponent batting average.
Manship's strong start to the season puts him on pace to break longstanding Notre Dame records for strikeouts per nine innings (12.71) and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (4.77) while his K-to-walk ratio would rank third-best in the Irish record book. Frank Carpin's 12.63 Ks per 9 IP (in '58) has stood as the ND record for nearly 50 years while Ed Lupton's 4.83 hits/9 IP in '63 is another record that could be ended by Manship. Tom Price (12.1, in '94) and Danny Tamayo (6.2, in '01) are the only pitchers in the ND record book with a better season K-to-walk ratio than Manship's current 6.0.
Notre Dame (4-5) scored in six of the first seven innings, pushing across a pair of runs in both the 1st and 2nd before adding three-run efforts in the 3rd and 5th, two more runs in the 6th and Rizzo's grand slam in the 7th. Eight Irish players registered hits - led by the leadoff batter Cooper (4-for-5, RBI, 3 R, 2B, HBP) and Dressman from the 2-hole (3-for-5, 5 RBI, 2 R, SB, sac. bunt) - while Rizzo chipped in a 2-for-3 game while 5 RBI of his own from the No. 9 spot in the order. Eight Notre Dame players also had RBI in the big win, 11 scored runs and seven different players had at least one RBI and a run scored.
The Notre Dame batters combined to hit .412 (14-for-34) in the game while enjoying their most productive plate-discipline effort of the season - striking out just five times while drawing 12 free passes, via seven walks and five times hit-by-pitch.
The Irish offense was clicking in all situational categories, placing 4-of-8 leadoff batters on base, batting nearly .500 with runners on base (12-for-25) and above .500 with them in scoring position (9-for-17). The Notre Dame hitters had combined for just eight 2-out RBI in the eight previous games this season but the Irish exceeded that total in Saturday's game, batting 7-for-15 with 2-outs while collecting nine RBI when down to their final out of an inning.
Manship and a pair of freshman relievers - lefthander Sam Elam and righthander Brett Graffy - also had an impressive collective stat line, totaling 10 strikeouts with no walks or hit batters while rolling up 12 groundouts (nine by Manship) and facing only 31 total batters (four over the minimum).
Notre Dame's pitchers had allowed nearly 50% of leadoff batters (35-of-71) to reach in the eight previous games but only two Iowa batters reached when leading off the inning. The Irish staff then was effective at closing the deal, limiting Iowa to 1-for-10 batting with 2-outs (1-for-7 vs. Manship) to squash only hopes at a comeback.
The Irish have yet to make an error on the spring-break trip and own an eye-popping .982 team fielding percentage for the season, with just six errors in the nine games (three error-free games and six with one E). Only two of the errors have been made by regular starting position players - one each for the shortstop Lopez and second baseman Ross Brezovsky - with Rizzo adding two errors as the backup catcher, Dury making an error in his only start at first baseman and pitcher Tom Thornton throwing errantly on an opening-day pickoff attempts.
Senior righthander Austin Seward (1-2) recorded just four outs before leaving the game when Cooper's scorcher up the middle smacked off his throwing arm. Seward had walks (2) or hit (3) half of the 10 batters he faced, with the Irish scoring twice in the 1st thanks to three hit batters, a walk and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Steve Andres.
Iowa quickly tied the score but the Irish matched that output with two more runs in the bottom of the 2nd, sparked by Brett Lilley's RBI single. RBI singles from Greg Lopez and Dressman then helped Notre Dame but three more runs on the board in the 4th while the three-run bottom of the 5th including consecutive singles from Rizzo, Cooper and Dressman (2 RBI), plus Matt Bransfield's RBI double.
Cooper's RBI double and Dressman' run-scoring single pushed the lead to double-digits in the 6th while a pinch-hit double from Mike Dury preceded Rizzo's grand slam in the 7th. The senior catcher launched his first home run of the season on a full-count fastball from freshman righthander Nick Erdman, pulling the ball down the leftfield line for the 15th home run of his Notre Dame career.
Dressman factored into seven of the Notre Dame runs and continues to lead the team in hitting, now checking in at a .429 clip (9-for-21) with six runs scored and four walks. The junior rightfielder also owns a .520 on-base percentage that would rank fifth-best in the Notre Dame record book/
The Irish are batting .362 as a team at the UTSA Classic (25-for-69) and will look to keep rolling on Sunday night (7:00 central), when the senior lefthander Thornton takes the mound versus Illinois.
The Notre Dame pitchers now have combined for seven strong starts in nine games - with the four starters (Manship, Thornton, Jeff Samardzija and Wade Korpi) owning a 3.47 combined ERA, better than a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (45:14) and a lowly .237 opponent batting average. The overall staff ERA now rests at 3.94
Iowa (5-3) 0-2-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 - 2 4 1
Notre Dame (4-5) 2-2-3 0-3-2 4-0-X - 16 14 0
Jeff Manship (W, 1-0), Sam Elam (7), Brett Graffy (9) and Cody Rizzo.
Austin Seward (1-2), Chase Stephens (2), Steve Turnbull (4), Nick Erdman (6), Aaron Reasland (8) and Dusty Napolean, Kody McManis (7).