April 9, 2005
BROCKTON, Mass. - Tom Thornton's first college outing in his home state was a memorable one, as the junior lefthander turned in a clutch complete-game effort to help Notre Dame earn a split with fellow BIG EAST contender Boston College (2-8, 3-2), in Saturday's neutral-site action at Campanelli Stadium (home of the minor-league Brockton Rox).
Thornton (3-4) retired the final 11 batters he faced to win the pitchers duel with Boston College senior righthander Joe Martinez (4-2), who fared considerably better versus the Irish than in the 2005 BIG EAST title game (when he managed just one out and was tagged for six runs as ND jumped to an early lead).
Notre Dame (15-14, 4-4 BIG EAST) got back on the winning track in the nightcap, after losing four of the previous five games. The Irish remain in close proximity of a top-four BIG EAST finish (and a corresponding BIG EAST Tournament berth), with Saturday's results yielding the following updated standings: St. John's (6-1), BC (7-2), Rutgers (6-2), Connecticut (4-3), Villanova (5-4), ND (4-4), Georgetown (4-5), West Virginia (3-6), Pittsburgh (2-7) and Seton Hall (2-7).
The Irish held a 2-1 lead in the opener but the Eagles surged ahead in the 3rd (3-2) before plating four runs in the decisive bottom of the 5th.
Thornton ¬- who delivered several big-game performances in the 2004 season - added another key win to his career total after limiting Boston College (20-8) to 11 total baserunners, with just four of them venturing into scoring position (all in the first four innings) as the Eagles were held to 2-for-10 batting with runners on base.
In facing just 34 batters (seven over the minimum), Thornton did not walk a batter, hit one with a pitch and scattered eight hits while allowing one earned run and an unearned run in the full nine innings. The Middleboro, Mass., native located 70% of his pitches for strikes (69 of 96) in the efficient outing while using 14 groundball outs and five strikeouts to account for the bulk of his 27 outs (his other outs included two infield popups, three infield lineouts and just three flyouts to the outfield).
Notre Dame claimed a 2-0 lead in the 2nd inning of the nightcap but the Irish forged a tie with single runs in the bottom of the 2nd and the 4th. The Irish then scored the decisive run in the 5th, when a leftside groundout off the bat of senior first baseman Matt Edwards brought home sophomore rightfielder Danny Dressman. A one-out throwing error on shortstop Jonny Weiss had allowed Dressman to reach and freshman Brett Lilley (who made his first start at third base) then delivered on an 0-2 pitch, pulling a single through the left side with the infield positioned for the potential double-play. Dressman motored to third base and scored moments later on the Edwards groundout to the third baseman.
Martinez (4-2) logged a 132-pitch outing (107 more than his previous start vs. ND) and racked up 10 strikeouts while allowing seven hits and just one walk in the full nine innings (one of the three Irish runs was unearned)
Junior leftfielder Steve Andres drew a full-count walk to start Notre Dame's run-scoring sequence in the 2nd inning of game-2. Groundouts from Alex Nettey and Langford advanced Andres to third and he trotted home when freshman second baseman Ross Brezovsky ripped a single off the second baseman. Martinez then threw errantly on a pickoff try (sending Brezovsky to second) and sophomore catcher Sean Gaston plated the second run by pulling a 1-2 pitch through the right side.
BC's first run came unearned moments later, after a Drew Locke single and stolen base (he took third on the wayward throw) and Shawn McGill's RBI groundout. A two-out rally then tied the game in the 4th, after consecutive singles by Mike Flynn, Weiss and Robert Dittrich.
Thornton now owns a 2-0 record, 2.49 ERA, 10 strikeouts and just one walk in three career starts (21.2 IP, 23 H, 3 HB) vs. his homestate school - including the 2004 win that made Notre Dame the first team ever to win three straight BIG EAST tournament titles.
Tom Mackor led off the bottom of the 5th with a single through the right side but he quickly was released when junior shortstop Greg Lopez started a 6-3 double-play. One inning later, Locke hit a leadoff single up the middle but the threat ended moments later when Lilley and Brezovsky hooked up on the 5-4-3 double play. Thornton then closed the game with three straight 1-2-3 innings - going groundout-strikeout-flyout in the 7th, GO-infield lineout-GO in the 8th and K-GO-K in the 9th.
Thornton had been serving up a higher ratio of flyouts than groundouts this season and that trend hurt him in last week's loss at Rutgers - when what should have been a flyout to left field instead was a wind-aided grand slam by 9-hole hitter Jason Grover (ultimately lifting RU to the 5-3 lead). Thornton served up seven outfield flyouts that day vs. RU while totaling just seven outs via groundballs - in sharp contrast to his ratio of 12 groundball outs to three outfield flyouts vs. BC.
Senior lefthander Mike Wlodarczyk (6-1) - rated by Baseball America as one of the top-10 pro prospects in the BIGE AST this season - lived up to that distinction in the seven-inning opener (8-2), striking out nine Irish batters while allowing just four hits, no walks and one earned run during the 100-pitch complete game.
Sophomore righthander Dan Kapala (1-1) suffered the loss in the first start of his career, after continuing Notre Dame's trend of middle-inning struggles on the mound. Kapala had a solid start but ultimately allowed seven runs (five earned) on eight hits and one walk, with a strikeout and hit batter in his 71-pitch stint.
Junior first baseman Craig Cooper (2-for-3) was the only Irish player with multiple hits in the opener, as the rest of the team hit just 2-for-23 (the 1-4 batters were 1-for-12).
BC's 3-4 hitters (McGuire and Jason Delaney) combined to bat 7-for-8 with 5 RBI in the opener while the rest of the Eagles batters his just 2-for-21.
Lilley manufactured a run to start the day, reaching on a one-out error by the shortstop Weiss and taking second on a blown pickoff throw before scoring on pair of passed balls. BC tied the game moments later, as McGuire send a 2-out single through the right side, stole second and scored on Delaney's triple down the rightfield line.
Notre Dame came right back to retake the lead in the 2nd. Junior catcher Matt Bransfield sent a leadoff single down the rightfield line before coming around to score on Cooper's double to right-center and Rizzo's groundout to the left side.
BC then went back ahead in the 3rd, sparked by another two-out single and stolen base from McGuire. Delaney then reached on an infield single and the Eagles executed the double-steal before both runners scored on a costly error up the middle.
BC's big 5th inning included Dave Preziosi's bunt single and stolen base. McGuire's RBI single to left field, Delaney's two-run blast to right-center, a hit batter (McGill) followed by another stolen base, and Flynn's RBI double down the rightfield line.
Notre Dame 1-1-0 0-0-0 0 - 2 4 2
Boston College 1-0-2 0-4-1 X - 8 9 1
Notre Dame 0-2-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 - 3 7 1
Boston College 0-1-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 - 2 8 4