March 18, 2006
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Tom Thornton needed just 84 pitches in nine innings for the complete-game victory and Matt Bransfield capped his tournament MVP performance with a two-run double that opened the scoring, as the host team Notre Dame won the Irish Baseball Classic with Sunday's 4-0 victory over Southern Illinois at Wolff Stadium.
(Note: look for an upcoming overview of the Spring Break trip, including photos from today's game.)
Notre Dame (9-6) completed a 7-1 record on its Spring Break trip while receiving yet another strong outing from a starting pitcher. Thornton (3-1) totaled 64 strikes and just 20 balls in his economical outing, facing only 31 batters (four over the minimum) with five hits and no walks allowed. The senior lefthander - who registered his 23rd career victory with the Irish and fifth complete game during the past two seasons - had two strikeouts, giving him 16 for the season to go along with just one walk in 26 innings pitched.
Bransfield batted 8-for-16 with five RBI, three doubles, a triple and a home run during the four games at the Irish Baseball Classic. Senior outfielders Alex Nettey and Cody Rizzo also were named to the all-tournament team, as were senior first baseman Craig Cooper, sophomore second baseman Ross Brezovsky, Thornton and junior righthander Jeff Manship (a San Antonio native).
Three of Notre Dame's runs on Saturday were brought home via 2-out RBI, continuing an impressive trend of clutch hitting during the past week. More than half of Notre Dame's RBI (31 of 60) during the Spring Break trip came with 2-outs on the scoreboard, as the Irish batted .363 with 2-outs in that eight-game stretch. Rizzo led the way during Spring Break with eight 2-out RBI, followed by junior outfielder Danny Dressman (6) and Bransfield (5).
Rizzo walked on a full count to lead off the bottom of the 3rd and Cooper followed with a single through the left side (1-1 count) before Dressman's groundout advanced the runners while another groundball caused Rizzo to be tagged out at home. But Bransfield again picked up his team, battling from behind in the count to drive a 1-2 pitch from senior righthander Matt Brewer (0-1) into left field. Cooper and Dressman came around to score for the 2-0 lead.
Nettey later drew a full-count walk with one in the 4th and moved up on a groundout before scoring on Rizzo's full-count, 2-out single down the leftfield line.
The final Irish run came in the 8th, versus junior RHP Dusty Baker. Nettey went the other way on a 2-2 pitch for a 1-out single through the right side and motored around to score on the hit-and-run, as senior shortstop Greg Lopez sliced a 2-0 pitch into right-center for the RBI double.
Southern Illinois (13-10) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 - 0 5 1
Notre Dame (9-6) 0-0-2 1-0-0 0-1-X - 4 8 2
Matt Brewer (L, 0-1), Danny Wells (5), Tyler Norrick (7), Dusty Baker (8) and Hunter Harrigan.