March 29, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Matt Edwards joined an elite group of Notre Dame players by launching three home runs while driving in six runs, as the Irish baseball team resumed its strong homestand with Tuesday night's 9-5 win over Western Michigan.
Notre Dame (12-10) - which improved to 5-1 in its first stretch at Eck Stadium this season - plated a 1st-inning run for the 12th time this season and went on to an early 4-0 lead before later stretching to an 8-3 cushion when Edwards blasted a three-run shot in the 7th.
Edwards is the first Notre Dame player to hit three home runs in a game since All-American third baseman Brant Ust homered versus three different pitchers in a 1998 game at Seton Hall. Ust had been the program's only player with three home runs in a game since the early 1990s, when first baseman Jon Binkiewicz homered versus Evansville and Michigan in a 12-day stretch of the 1991 season.
The 113-year history of Notre Dame baseball now has seen just seven players hit three home runs in a game (a total of eight times) - with Edwards, Ust and Binkiewicz the only players to do so in nearly 50 years. One of the top players for Notre Dame's first College World Series team, Jim Morris, hit three home runs vs. Naval Air Station during that 1957 season. One must go back 23 seasons before that to find another three-home-run game, by Andy Pilney vs. the University of Chicago in 1916.
Jake Kline - the Hall of Fame coach who will be honored at Eck Stadium during the Villanova series in late April (when a bust of the former Irish coach will be unveiled in the stadium concourse area) - was the second Notre Dame player ever to hit three home runs in a game, doing so in a 1916 game vs. Michigan (Jerry Sheehan is the first known to have a three-home-run game, vs. Hillsdale in 1906).
(Note that other notes and quotes from Edwards are included below.)
Edwards, who was walked intentionally in his other two plate appearances, extended his hitting streak to 10 games and now has hits in 18 of the past 19 games. Junior centerfielder Alex Nettey (2-for-3, RBI, 3 R, BB, HBP) continued to produce from the leadoff spot, pushing his career-best hitting streak to 11 games (longest by an ND player this season).
Freshman lefthander Wade Korpi (2-0) picked up the victory in his first start since opening week, after making seven relief appearances. Korpi allowed three runs on six hits and two walks in the game's first five innings, with three strikeouts in his 77-pitch outing.
Sophomore righthander Dan Kapala continued his recent strong work out of the Irish bullpen but was tagged with a pair of tough-luck runs in 2.2 innings of work, ending his stretch of 11.2 innings and six outings without allowing an earned run.
Korpi and Kapala combined with two others to extend an impressive homestand by the Notre Dame pitching staff, which now has compiled a 2.89 staff ERA, .260 opponent batting avg. and 2.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio (38/17) in the past six games.
Sophomore righthander Derek Schlecker (3-2) served up two of the Edwards home runs and was touched for four hits, four hits and a walk while striking out two Irish batters in 3.0 innings of work.
Western Michigan (5-11) jumped back into the game in the top of the 4th, when Tony Scheffler homered to left field as the Irish lead shrunk to 4-3.
Nettey and Edwards were the only Irish players with multiple hits, as the bottom of the order (5-9) combined to hit just 1-for-16.
Edwards homered with two outs to open the scoring, as Schlecker left a 1-0 slider up and over the plate. The senior third baseman drove the ball into the wind and over the leftfield fence for his seventh home run of the season and
The Irish tacked on three runs in the 3rd, sparked by singles through the left side of the infield by junior shortstop Greg Lopez and Nettey (both on 1-0 pitch). With runners on the corners, freshman second baseman Brett Lilley picked up the RBI by knocking a 1-2 pitch to the right side of the infield.
Edwards then delivered another hit on a 1-0 pitch, turning on a high fastball and driving another home run to left field for the 4-0 lead.
Korpi gave up a single and walk to start the 4th and bring pitching coach Terry Rooney to the mound. Moments later, the rookie pitcher started a 1-6-5 pickoff play that forced out the lead runner - an out that proved key when Mark Abro followed with a double down the leftfield line and Scheffler sent his own blast over the leftfield fence for his first home run of the season and a suddenly tight 4-3 game.
The Irish pushed across a run in the 5th, vs. senior lefthander Charlie Christner. Nettey - who now has reached on 50% of his plate appearances when leading off an inning (9-of-18) - was hit with an 0-2 pitch and moved up on a Lilley groundout before Christner issued an intentional one-out walk to Edwards. Junior first baseman Matt Bransfield, who recently returned from his season-opener broken hand, then picked up his first RBI of the season by sending a 2-2 pitch through the left side of the infield.
Nettey later led off the bottom of the 7th with a five-pitch walk and moved on to third on Lilley's single through the right side (on a 2-2 pitch) and the ensuing error on the rightfielder. Senior righthander Tim Bebber was called out of the bullpen to face the righthanded-hitting Edwards, who worked ahead in the count (2-0) before pulling a belt-high fastball down the leftfield line that and out of the park for a booming shot that tied the Notre Dame record.
The Broncos used four hits - including a hard-luck knuckler to the left side - to plate a pair of runs in the 8th, with pinch-hitter Andy Roy plating the first run while Travis May sent a shot off the foot of sophomore lefthanded Mike Dury to forge an 8-5 game.
Notre Dame came right back to score another run, thanks to an error, Lopez's sacrifice bunt and Nettey's RBI single up the middle. Edwards was not given a chance to become the first Notre Dame player with four home runs in a game, as Bebber walked him intentionally with a runner on second base.
All-America closer Ryan Doherty worked out of his own jam in the 9th, after allowing a walk, a double and another base on balls that loaded the bases with two outs - but Abro went down swinging at a 2-2 pitch to end the game.
Notes and quotes from Edwards follow below the linescore.
Western Michigan (5-11) 0-0-0 3-0-0 0-2-0 - 5 11 2
Home Runs: Matt Edwards, ND (solo in 1st, 1 on in 3rd, 2 on in 7th; 7th-9th of season, 27th-29th of career); Tony Scheffler, WMU (2 on in 4th; 1st of season).
NOTES - The last time Edwards hit three home runs in a game was when he had a 4-HR game as a 14-year-old at the Virginia AAU state tournament ... in fact, he hit nine home runs and a double in his first 11 at-bats of that tournament (while playing with the Richmond Virginians) ... Edwards - who missed most of his freshman season due to injury and has the option to apply for a 5th year of eligibility in '06 - already ranks 10th in ND history with 29 career home runs ... he is averaging one home run every 5.6 games played in his ND career (161 GP) ... Edwards is on pace for 23 home runs in the 56-game regular season (the ND record of 20 HRs was set by two-sport star Frank Jacobs, in '91) ... since the college bat standards chance in the late 1990s, the top ND season home run totals are owned by Brian Stavisky (14, in 2000) and Matt Macri (14, in '04) ... Edwards has racked up 35 RBI in 22 games this season, putting him on pace for 89 RBI in the regular season (that would rank 2nd in the ND record book behind All-American Dan Peltier's 93 RBI in '89) ... his 162 career RBI are four shy of cracking that ND top-10 list ... Edwards has surged atop the team batting charts (.395) and owns an .803 slugging pct. (8 2B, 69 TB) that ranks ahead of Peltier's standing ND record (.783, in '89) ... Edwards also has 11 walks and 5 hit-by-pitch this season for a .481 on-base pct. and 1.283 OPS (combined on-base and slugging) that is just shy of Peltier's record (1.296, in '89) ... Edwards is batting .425 this season with runners in scoring position (17-for-40) and is hitting at a .476 overall clip during the current 6-game homestand (10-for-21, 14 RBI, 9 R, 4 HR, 3 2B, 1.190 slug, 556 OB, 1.746 OPS) ... in three career games vs. WMU, Edwards is batting 6-for-11 with 9 RBI and 4 HRs (2B, 1.727 slug, 2 BB, K) ... ND ranks third among ND everyday players with a .328 season batting avg. (plus 5 BB, 7 HBP) ... Lilley's .380 season batting avg. would rank as the best by a freshman in the 11-year Paul Mainieri ... only two ND freshmen ever have posted a higher season batting avg. (Eric Danapilis .429 in '90 and Scott Sollmann .402 in '94, followed by Ust's .372 in '97) ... Lilley - who has 13 walks and 14 HBPs - owns a .545 season on-base pct. would break the ND record held by Danapilis (.531, in '91) ... current junior RF Cody Rizzo (28 in '03, 21 in '04), Danapilis (15, in '93) and Javi Sanchez (15, in '04) are the only ND players ever to total more HBPs in a season than Lilley's current total ... Lilley is batting .476 in the current homestand (10-for-21, 4 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, HBP, .542 OB, 3-4 SB, 3 SAC) ... Rizzo has 6 HBPs in the homestand and 9 this season, pushing his career total to 58 for a share of 9th in NCAA history (former Cal State Fullerton 2B David Bacani and Clemson SS Khalil Greene, the '02 national player of the year and current big-leaguer with the San Diego Padres, also had 58 career HBPs) ... ND posted its third error-free game of the season ... the Irish now are 3-9 when being outhit by the opponent, 10-1 when holding the opponent to 0-5 runs, 6-6 when scoring in the 1st, 10-1 when leading at the end of the 6th inning and 6-2 when scoring 9-plus runs ... the Irish had owned the 4th inning (28-6 scoring edge) prior to seeing WMU score its three runs ... WMU now is the 2nd-most common opponent in ND baseball history (126 games, trailing only 130 vs. Northwestern) and the series is nearly equal (63 WMU wins, 62 ND wins and one tie) ... the Irish have won the last four in the series and eight of the last 10, with just a +23 scoring margin in the 126-game series (665-642).
Matt Edwards QUOTES - "I didn't get jammed on the first one. I just missed it and the wind kind of took it. It was a slider and he left it up and in the middle of the plate. The second pitch was a fastball up and over the plate. The third was third fastball down the middle, about belt-high. ... With a runner on third and nobody out, I'm looking for something I can get into the outfield first, so of course I'm going to be aggressive with a 2-0 count. ... That one and the home run I hit in the (2--4) regional vs. Arizona are the best home runs I can remember hitting here. ... This year, I've been more disciplined with the offspeed pitches I've been seeing a lot. A lot of times, I'll sit on offspeed pitches, try to wait back and hit the ball up the middle. I'm not trying to hit home runs like at some points I was last year. ... If we put up nine runs, I think we're going to win games like we did tonight. We don't have as much home run power as last year but we are doing a great job getting on base and giving the guys in the middle of the order chances to drive in runs. That's the type of offense we have now. ... I put on about 25 pounds from last year to this year and you could see it on that one I hit in the first inning. The extra bat speed and weight I had behind the ball gets it out. Or like in Evansville, when I hit one off the end of the bat and was able to get it out. ... With a 2-0 count and nobody out, I knew they didn't want to walk the bases loaded. I was definitely sitting on a fastball and got it where I wanted. ... I feel perfect at the plate right now. I'm comfortable and couldn't wait to come out and play today. ... Last year, I got into one of those funks and was looking for quick corrections but this year I just really paid attention to what felt good at the plate and every day at batting practice. I try to get to where I'm comfortable and I've been able to get consistent with my approach in the batters box and that's had a lot to do with my success."