April 4, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Craig Cooper continued his hot hitting from the top of the lineup while Chicago-area native Brett Graffy came out of the bullpen to pick up the win in his first extended action of the season, as the Notre Dame baseball team pushed its winning streak to eight games with Tuesday night's 6-4 win over Chicago State at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (18-8) - now 16-3 over the span of the past five weeks - had dominated the first inning all season and it was more of the same versus the Cougars, as the Irish jumped out to the 4-0 lead in the opening frame. It marked the 14th time this season that Notre Dame has scored in the first inning, with the Irish now owning a 29-8 season scoring edge in the inning.
Cooper sparked the early output with his first of two doubles in the game, batting 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. The senior first baseman now is riding a seven-game hitting streak and has reached base 14-of-17 times this season when leading off the game for the Irish, batting 10-for-13 with three walks and one time hit-by-pitch in those first-inning leadoff plate appearances.
Junior rightfielder Danny Dressman's 3-for-4 game from the 2-hole pushed him back atop the team batting charts at an even .400, edging ahead of Cooper's .395.
Graffy - a native of the Homer Glen, Ill. (near Joliet) - had logged just four innings in three previous appearances but he turned in 5.1 strong innings on Tuesday in relief of sophomore lefthander David Gruener. The freshman righthander picked up his first decision of the season after holding the Cougars to one run on three hits and a walk, with one strikeout. He faced just 18 batters (two over the minimum), thanks to a pair of double plays.
John Sandzimier, who hit a leadoff single and scored in the seventh, was the only Chicago State player to reach third base with Graffy on the mound.
Freshman righthander Kyle Weiland set down the side in the ninth, including a pair of strikeouts, for his seventh save of the season (most among any closer in the BIG EAST Conference). His seven saves are the second-most ever by a Notre Dame freshman, wedged between the totals posted by two pitchers who went on to pitch in the Major Leagues: Aaron Heilman (9, in 1998) and Chris Michalak (6, in 1990).
Senior righthander Jonathan Kohn (1-4) took the complete-game loss after totaling 137 pitches in the eight innings, one week after racking up 161 pitches in 7.2 innings of a loss at Kansas State. Kohn yielded six runs (all earned) on 11 hits and five walks, with three strikeouts.
Notre Dame is 13-2 this season when totaling double-digit hits, including each of the past four games.
Sophomore second baseman Ross Brezovsky (2-for-3) joined Cooper in extending his hitting streak to seven games while also having a hand in half of the Notre Dame runs versus the Cougars, with a two-run triple and run scored to account for all but one of the early runs. Freshman Eddy Mendiola also batted 2-for-3 while making his first start of the season at third base.
Notre Dame totaled four hits and a walk in the first inning, sparked by Cooper's double down the leftfield line on a 1-2 pitch. Dressman then pulled the next pitch through the right side of the infield and freshman shortstop Jeremy Barnes walked on four pitches before Sean Gaston's groundball plated the first run (with Dressman forced out at first). Brezovsky followed with his two-run triple deep to the right-center gap (on a 1-1 pitch) and senior leftfielder Steve Andres capped the big inning by pulling a 1-2 pitch down the rightfield line for an RBI single.
The Irish now are batting .365 in the first inning while averaging better than one first-inning run per game (29 in 26 GP). Notre Dame's first-inning fireworks also have included a .542 team slugging percentage (10 doubles, 2 triples and a home run) and a .484 on-base percentage, with 18 walks and 8 times hit-by-pitch in the inning (plus 8 sacrifice bunts. The 29-8 scoring edge in the first inning is a major improvement from 2005, when the Irish owned just a 58-49 scoring edge in the first.
The Notre Dame pitchers have combined for a 2.77 first-inning ERA, putting a zero on the board 21 times in 26 first innings this season. The staff's other first-inning stats include a .243 opponent batting average, 28 strikeouts and just 8 walks in 26 innings.
The visitors manufactured a run in the second - after a single, walk, sacrifice bunt and run-scoring groundout - before RBI singles from Randy Bernosky and Chris Goya yielded a 4-3 game in the third.
Notre Dame extended the lead back to three with a pair of runs in the sixth. Senior centerfielder Alex Nettey was hit-by-pitch to start the scoring sequence (his BIG EAST-leading 14th HBP of the season) and Eddy Mendiola bunted the runner to second before Cody Rizzo sent an opposite-field single to right field (Nettey stopped at third and Rizzo was erased trying to advance on the throw). The Irish recovered for a pair of two-out RBI, as Cooper sent another double into left field and the left-handed hitting Dressman added an RBI hit into left for the 6-3 lead.
The Cougars closed to 6-4 in the seventh - after a single, double and RBI groundout - but Graffy induced a foulout from Roc Latino and the first baseman Cooper alertly fired to third base, with Mendiola tagging out Luke Grow as he tried to advance a base. The rally-killing double play signaled a strong chance at victory, as the Irish now are 16-1 when leading at the end of the seventh inning.
Notes - The Irish are 7-1 at home this season and wrap up the current seven-game homestand tomorrow (April 5) vs. a Ball State team that is 4-2 versus the Irish at Eck Stadium (since '98) ... the ND pitchers still have allowed just three home runs all season and none in the past 21-plus games, spanning 818 batters faced ... ND improved to 16-3 when outhitting the opponent, 15-3 when holding the opponent to five or fewer runs and 6-1 when playing error-free ... ND's team fielding pct. (.973) remains on team record pace, with just 27 errors in 26 games played (0-1 Es in 21 games) ... Brezovsky's seven extra-base hits (HR, 3B, 5 2B) are tied for third-most on the team, behind Matt Bransfield (13) and Cooper (8) ... Cooper posted the first multiple-double game of his career and now has 40 doubles in four seasons with the Irish, to go along with 19 home runs and 39 stolen bases ... Cooper's first-inning stats as the leadoff batter this season include 10-for-13 batting (.769), a 1.385 slugging pct. (HR, 5 2B), an .824 on-base pct. (3 BB, HBP) and 2.209 OPS (on-base plus slugging) ... he has reached when leading off the game for the Irish in 11 of the past 12 (9-for-10, 2 BB).
Chicago State (3-17) 0-1-2 0-0-0 1-0-0 - 4 8 0