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    Thornton Tosses Near Shutout In 6-2 Opener But Hoyas Earn Split (9-8) On 12th-Inning Home Run

    FIGHTING IRISH Tom Thornton went the distance and nearly posted a shutout in the 6-2 opener vs. Georgetown (photo by Pete LaFleur).
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Tom Thornton went the distance and nearly posted a shutout in the 6-2 opener vs. Georgetown (photo by Pete LaFleur).
    FIGHTING IRISH

    March 24, 2005

    Final Stats

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame's Tom Thornton came one out shy of pitching a shutout in the 6-2 opener while Georgetown's Ryan Craft hit the decisive home run in the 12th inning of the 9-8 nightcap, as the Irish and Hoyas split a BIG EAST doubleheader to open each team's conference season Thursday afternoon at Eck Stadium.

    Notre Dame (9-10) had plenty of chances to complete the sweep but plated just eight of 32 baserunners in the nightcap, with 20 left on base while others were erased on a double play, a forceout at home, a pickoff while rounding second based and a fielder's choice.

    Thornton (2-3) was sharp from the start, locating 18 of his first 19 pitches for strikes while scattering six hits and three walks in the seven-inning opener. His 97-pitch outing (70 strikes) also included five strikeouts and five groundouts, with the shutout bid ending when Joe Graziano hit a two-out single to left-center and Brooks homered over the leftfield fence.

    Georgetown (13-9) - which scored six of its 11 runs in the doubleheader via the long ball - saw its 24-game losing streak vs. Notre Dame come to end, despite seeing the Irish rally to tie the nightcap with a pair of runs in the 8th. The 12-inning game lasted three hours and 54 minutes to rank among the longest games in the 12-year history of Eck Stadium. Just two games at The Eck have seen more innings (a 5-3 win over West Virginia in '98 and 7-6 win over Ball State in '04, both lasting 15 innings) while only that WVU game (4:20) and the wild 22-18 loss to Pittsburgh in 2000 (4:06; 10 innings) have taken more time to complete.

    Notre Dame's season record stands at the same point faced by the injury-decimated 2002 team, which rallied to win 32 of its final 36 regular-season games before making the program's first College World Series appearance since 1957.

    Nearly half of Notre Dame's baserunners in the doubleheader came via walks (10) and hit batters (5) but the Irish batted just .274 in the two games - while Georgetown hit .321 in the doubleheader.

     

     

    Junior outfielder/first baseman Craig Cooper walked five times and hit 3-for-5 in the doubleheader (2 RBI, R, 2 SB) while freshman second baseman Brett Lilley was 3-for-8 (2 R, HBP) and junior shortstop Greg Lopez stroked three doubles (3-for-9, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB). The rest of the Irish lineup hit just .212 (11-for-52) in the doubleheader.

    Joe Graziano (2-for-3, R) and Parker Brooks (2-for-4, 2 RBI, R) accounted for five of GU's six hits in the opener while Cooper (2-for-2, 2 RBI, BB, SB) was Notre Dame's only multi-hit player.

    Senior righthander Eddie Pena (1-2) suffered the game-one loss after allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks in 6.0 innings, with three strikeouts, three wild pitches, two hits batters and eight groundouts in his 105-pitch outing.

    Notre Dame continued its recent 1st-inning production by scoring 1st-inning runs in both games, giving the Irish 21 runs in the 1st inning of the 19 games this season (ND has scored 1st-inning runs in 11 of the last games).

    Junior centerfielder Alex Nettey opened ND's offensive day by sending an 0-2 pitch through the left side before moving up on a wild pitch and Lilley's sac. bunt. Junior first baseman Matt Edwards then sent a 2-2 pitch through the left side before ultimately scoring on a pair of wild pitches for the early 2-0 lead.

    Several of Notre Dame's key hits in game-one game on two-strike counts, including three hits in the three-run bottom of the 3rd. Lilley sent a full-count pitch up the middle for a one-out single and Edwards was hit by Pena's next pitch before sophomore catcher Sean Gaston plated Lilley on a 1-2 single through the left side. The runners moved up on a stolen base/passed ball play and Cooper then plated two runs by going the other way for a single through the right side (on a 2-2 pitch) for a 5-0 lead.

    The Irish added an insurance run in the 5th, after a leadoff walk by Edwards, Cooper's single to left-center (0-2 count) and a run-scoring groundout off the bat of Mike Dury.

    The top three batters in the Irish lineup combined to hit just 4-for-20 in the nightcap, with Lopez (3-for-6, 2 RBI, R), freshman leftfielder Tony Langford (3-for-7, RBI, 2 R) and Lilley (2-for-6, R, HBP) collecting multi-hit games. Cooper (1-for-3, R, SB) added a rare four-walk game while junior rightfielder Cody Rizzo reach base five times (1-for-2, 3 BB, 2 HBP, R).

    Senior catcher Andrew Cleary (4-for-6, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) and junior centerfielder Timmy Jones (3-for-7, R) paced the GU lineup in the second game.

    Both teams put five leadoff batters on base in the nightcap but the Hoyas owned the key situational hitting edges in batting with runners in scoring position (.357/5-for-14, to ND's .227/5-for-22) and in 2-out batting (.450/9-for-20, to ND's .267/4-for-15). Georgetown collected four 2-out RBI while the hosts failed to collect a 2-out RBI, with the Irish also hitting 0-for-4 with the bases loaded.

    Notre Dame had a runner on third with fewer than two outs six times in the nightcap but brought the runner home on just three of those key RBI chances. Notre Dame's 20 runners left on base included 10 innings with a runner stranded in scoring position (two bases-loaded, six with two LOB, two others with a single runner left on second base) - with a total of 14 runners left stranded in scoring position (seven at third, seven at second).

    Senior righthander Tom Braun (1-0) turned in a clutch outing to get the game-two win, limiting the Irish to one hit and four walks in the final 4.1 innings (4 Ks, 66 pitches). Braun allowed just one leadoff batter while holding the Irish to 0-for-8 batting with runners on and 0-for-5 with 2 outs.

    Junior All-America closer Ryan Doherty (1-1) was extended to 4.0 innings and suffered the loss, ultimately allowing two hits, a walk and two hit batters while striking out three. It marked the longest relief outing with the Irish for Doherty, who also pitched 4.0 innings during his only start (vs. Toledo, as a freshman). Doherty did not allow a leadoff baserunner but GU hit 3-for-6 versus him with two outs.

    Sophomore righthander Jeff Manship continued to be eased back into action, opening the game with two shutout innings (2 H, 2 BB, K).

    The Irish plated a pair of 1st-inning runs in the nightcap as well, thanks to the centerfielder Timmy Jones dropping a fly ball off the bat of Lilley. Edwards then launched a 2-0 pitch over the leftfield fence for his team-leading sixth home run of the season and 26th of his career. Edwards - who can apply for a fifth year of eligibility in 2006 - now has totaled 26 home runs in 151 career games with the Irish (averaging a home run every 5.8 games) and is just three shy of cracking the ND career top-10 list.

    The Hoyas surged ahead in the 3rd with a pair of tough infield plays preceding Cleary's third home run of the season, on a full-count shot over the leftfield fence.

    Langford hit a leadoff double in the 4th and Lopez followed with an run-scoring double to left-center before Nettey pulled a 1-0 pitch down the leftfield line, pushing the Irish back to a 5-3 lead. The hosts added a run in the 5th, after Langford's first-pitch single up the middle and Lopez's one-out double to the right-center gap.

    Notre Dame's middle-inning bullpen struggles continued moments later, as the Hoyas used six hits, an error and two Irish mental miscues in the field to plate five runs for the 8-6 lead. Jim Supple capped the go-ahead inning with a two-out, two-run single into shallow left field.

    Cooper walked on a full count to start the bottom of the 8th and Rizzo single up the middle (taking second on the throw) before Dury sent a sacrifice fly to center field. Langford then brought home the tying run on a rightside groundball that was bobbled to leave the go-ahead run on base. Gaston followed with a well-placed bunt single but Langford was thrown out rounding second base - with Lopez's third double moments later being wasted when Braun entered the game and induced a flyout from Nettey.

    The Irish loaded the bases in the ninth but Braun rolled up a groundball that forced out Lilley at home and then served up a flyout to force extra innings.

    Notre Dame chances continued in the 10th - when Lopez was left stranded at second base - and in the 11th, with Cooper had a one-out walk and stolen base only to see the chance end on a foulout and groundout.

    Clark stroked the decisive home run with two outs in the 12th, sending a 1-1 pitch to right-center for an opposite-field shot and his fourth home run of the season.

    Notes: Nettey is riding an eight-game hit streak, matching Edwards for longest by an ND hitter this season ... the Irish are just 2-9 when being outhit this season (14-19 in the nightcap) ... ND still has posted just one error-free game this season ... the Irish have allowed as many runs in the 5th-7th innings this season (71, including 35 in the 6th) as in all other innings combined ... Rizzo's 54 career HBPs now rank 15th in NCAA history.

    Georgetown 0-0-0 0-0-0 2 - 2 6 2
    Notre Dame 2-0-3 0-1-0 X - 6 6 1

    Eddie Pena (L, 1-2) and Brandon Davis.
    Tom Thornton (W, 2-3) and Sean Gaston, Steve Andres (7).

    Home Run: Parker Brooks, GU (1 on in 7th; 1st of season).

    Georgetown (13-9, 1-1 BIG EAST) 0-0-3 0-0-5 0-0-0 0-0-1 - 9 19 5
    Notre Dame (9-10, 1-1 BIG EAST) 2-0-0 3-1-0 0-2-0 0-0-0 - 8 14 3

    Travis Danysh, Daniel Kennedy (4), Michael Halloran (6), Tom Braun (8; W, 1-0) and Andrew Cleary.
    Jeff Manship, Scott Bickford (3), Jess Stewart (5), David Gruener (5), Wade Korpi (6), Dan Kapala (6), Ryan Doherty (9; L, 1-1) and Sean Gaston.

    Home Runs: Andrew Cleary, GU (2 on in 3rd; 3rd of season); Alex Nettey, ND (1 on in 4th; 1st of career); Ryan Craft, GU (solo in 12th; 4th of season).
    Doubles: Greg Lopez 3 (ND), Cleary (GU), Tony Langford (ND).

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