March 23, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Senior lefthander T.J. Johnson scattered eight hits while nearly handing Notre Dame a rare shutout, as Central Michigan defeated the sixth-ranked Irish, 4-1, in Monday-night baseball action at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (13-3) suffered its first loss in a home opener since the first season of the Paul Mainieri era (1995) while Central Michigan (7-10) cashed in two first-inning unearned runs before riding Johnson (1-1) to the win. The Irish again played in front of a large and spirited opening-day crowd, with 1,703 tickets sold for the first gme of the 2004 season.
Johnson's 134-pitch outing included six strikeouts and just two walks, with the Irish unable to deliver the clutch hit despite totaling 11 baserunners. Notre Dame left nine runners on base while also hitting into a rally-killing double play in the third.
Sophomore DH Matt Bransfield's solo shot - his second home run of the season and second in the last three games - put the Irish on the board in the seventh inning and extended Notre Dame's scoring streak to 100 games (ND has been shut out just once in the last 330 games).
Johnson benefitted from stellar defense and error-free plays behind him - including a diving play by junior shortstop Ryan Peel that held Matt Macri to a single. That first-inning play left the bases loaded with two outs in the first and Johnson served up a groundout to escape with the early 3-0 cushion.
Senior lefthander Joe Thaman suffered the loss in his first start, after several solid relief appearances. Thaman was touched for four runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks over the first two innings, with freshman righthanders Derik Olvey (5 IP, 2 Ks, 19 batters faced) and Jeff Samardzija (2 IP, H, BB, 2 Ks) keeping the Chippewas off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Bryan Mitzel and Joey LaFavors both hit first-inning triples, with CMU's first and third runs coming unearned. Eric Cannon led off the game with a single to right-center but Jim Geldhof sent the next ball to the right side for a potential double play. Junior first baseman Matt Edwards flicked the ball to second base but sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez muffed the catch, yielding no outs with runners at first and second (it was Lopez's first error in eight games).
Notre Dame sophomore rightfielder and 5-hole hitter Cody Rizzo did not play for the sixth straight game, due to a sprained wrist (he remains out indefinitely).
Central Michigan 3-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 - 4 11 0
Notre Dame 0-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 - 1 8 1
T.J. Johnson (1-1) and Brian Campbell.
Home Run: Matt Bransfield, ND (solo in 7th; 2nd of season).
Triples: Bryan Mitzel (CMU), Jeff LaFavors (CMU).