March 28, 2004
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez continued his impressive start to the 2004 season and senior second baseman Steve Sollmann again had a productive day while batting second in the lineup, as the sixth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team completed a three-game sweep at West Virginia in a 6-2 Sunday afternoon game at Hawley Field.
Notre Dame (17-3, 3-0 BIG EAST) now has posted 3-0 series sweeps versus nine different BIG EAST teams, in nine seasons of BIG EAST play. It also marked the sixth time that the Irish have completed the tough three-game sweep on the road, previously going 3-0 at Boston College in 1998, Georgetown in '99, Rutgers and St. John's in 2001, and Seton Hall in '02.
The Irish are off to their best 20-game start in the last 45 seasons, since the 1959 team also started 17-3. Just three teams in the program's 112-year history - each from the early 1900s (1907, '08 and '10) - have posted a better record at the 20-game mark, with each starting 19-1.
The 3-0 BIG EAST start is all the more noteworthy when put in perspective of ND's previous eight seasons in the conference. Just two previous Irish teams have opened 3-0 in BIG EAST play, with three others starting 2-1, one opening 1-2 and two dropping their first three games (for a combined three-game BIG EAST start of 13-11 during those '96-'03 seasons).
Lopez delivered a 3-for-4 game while adding a walk and three runs scored from the 9-hole. He hit 6-for-12 in the series and now is batting a team-best .411 for the season, more than 160 points above his freshman-year average (.250).
Sollmann - who hit in his customary leadoff spot for the first 16 games before swapping spots with freshman centerfielder Danny Dressman - went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, a two-run home run and another run scored. He hit 5-for-11 in the series (boosting his season avg. from .227 to .260), with three walks, three RBI, three runs and a key triple in the opener to go along with Sunday's home run.
Senior lefthander Joe Thaman (2-1) picked up the win after another pitch-count start from junior righthander Grant Johnson. Thaman faced just 19 batters in the 3rd-7th innings, striking out five WVU batters while limiting the hosts to one run, one hit and two walks. Sophomore righthander Ryan Doherty inherited a bases-loaded situation in the 9th but served up a game-ending flyout for his fifth save of the season.
Freshman righthander Travis McGrath (1-2) suffered the loss despite eight strikeouts, after allowing five runs (four earned) on seventh hits and five walks in six innings.
Notre Dame scored single runs in four innings while Sollmann's blast broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the 5th. Lopez had doubled to lead off the inning and took third on Dressman's sacrifice bunt, with Sollmann depositing the next pitch over the fence in right-center for yet another opposite-field home run (most of his 13 career HRs have been to right field).
Junior first baseman Matt Edwards hit 2-for-5 from the cleanup spot, with his 7th-inning groundout pushing the Irish edge to 5-1 (Sollmann had drawn a leadoff walk before stealing second and third).
WVU (8-13, 0-3) opened the scoring in the 1st, after a Lee Fritz single and Stan Posluszny double. It marked the only earned run allowed in seven innings of work this season for Johnson, who is being eased back into the regular rotation after 2003 shoulder surgery.
Notre Dame manufactured a run to tie the score in the 3rd. Lopez led off with a single and moved up on a Dressman groundout and Sollmann flyout before scoring when the third baseman misplayed a groundball off the ball of Edwards. The Irish pushed across another run in the 4th, after senior catcher Javi Sanchez singled to left and took second on the outfielder's misplay before moving to third on Matt Macri's sacrifice bunt and scoring on a wild pitch.
The Irish added a pair of insurance runs in the late innings, with Edwards' groundout plating Sollmann in the 7th while Lopez's 8th-inning single and stolen base preceded a Dressman groundout and an RBI single from sophomore DH Steve Andres.
NOTES: Sollmann - whose sister Stacey played soccer at WVU - had hit just .269 in eight previous games vs. the Mountaineers before batting 5-for-11 this weekend ... the home run was his 276th career hit at ND, just three shy of tying former double-play partner Alec Porzel ('01) for 4th on the ND all-time hits list ... ND now leads the WVU series 28-13 (11-5 at WVU) and has won 15 of the last 17 vs. the Mountaineers ... the Irish have scored in 104 straight games and have been shut out just once in the last 334 ... Sollmann has hits in 8 of the last 9 games while Lopez has recorded hits in 14 of the last 15 ... ND's all-time 3-0 series in BIG EAST play include the following 16: at Boston College in '98 and at home vs. BC in '02; at home vs. UConn in '02; at home vs. Georgetown in '97, '98 and '02 and at home vs. GU in '97; at home vs. Pittsburgh in '99; at Rutgers and then St. John's in '01; at home vs. Seton Hall in '96 and '01 and at SHU in '02; at home vs. Villanova in '97 and '01; and at WVU in '04.
#6 Notre Dame (17-3, 3-0 BIG EAST) 0-0-1 0-2-1 1-1-0 - 6 9 2
West Virginia (8-13, 0-3 BIG EAST) 1-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 - 2 8 3
Travis McGrath (L, 1-2), Todd Dunham (7) and Travis D'Amico, David Carpenter (8).
Home Runs: Steve Sollmann, ND (1 on in 5th; 2nd of season, 13th of career); Jake Serfass, WVU (solo in 7th; 4th of season).
Doubles: Greg Lopez (ND), Stan Posluszny (WVU).