April 11, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Matt Bransfield's pair of home runs accounted for half of Notre Dame's long-ball total on Tuesday night as the 21st-ranked Irish provided Wade Korpi with plenty of early run support, jumping out to a 13-0 lead after four innings en route to the team's 13th straight win, 15-1 over Oakland.
Notre Dame (23-8) - which has not tasted defeat since March 25 - pounded out 17 hits for the third straight game and extended the program's unprecedented run to nine consecutive games with double-digit hits. The Irish now are batting .322 for the season, including .363 in the current winning streak and .400 during the past four games, which each have featured 15-plus hits (likewise believed to be an unprecedented feat in Notre Dame baseball history). Notre Dame also owns a 2.38 staff ERA during the win streak, holding opposing hitters to a .209 batting average while making fewer errors (12; .976 fielding percentage) than games played during the unbeaten run.
The 13-game winning streak matches the ninth-longest in Notre Dame history and is fourth-best in the 12-year Paul Mainieri, trailing only win streaks posted by the 2003 (17 games), 2002 (16) and 2001 (16) teams.
Korpi (3-1) continued his season-long mastery as the team's top midweek starter, logging five shutout innings while limiting Oakland (7-21) to three hits and one walk. The sophomore lefthander now has posted seven-plus strikeouts in all six of his starts, with eight versus the Golden Grizzlies to give him 52 for the season in just 37 innings pitched. Korpi entered the week ranked eighth nationally with 12.4 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and raised that mark to 12.65 to go along with a 2.19 season ERA, a .216 opponent batting average, just 12 walks and 29 hits allowed.
Solo shots from Bransfield and Sean Gaston helped Notre Dame open with a 4-0 lead while extending the team's first-inning scoring margin to 39-10, with the Irish now batting .398 in the first inning this season while scoring first-inning runs in 18 of the 31 games. The hosts then erupted for nine runs in the fourth, the most runs in an inning by a Notre Dame team since putting 10 on the board in the first inning of a game at Connecticut on May 10, 2004. Tuesday's big inning saw 13 Irish batters step to the plate, with seven collecting hits while two reached on walks and another was safe on one of three Oakland errors in the inning.
Bransfield's three-run blast in the fourth was followed two batters later by a solo home run from fellow senior Alex Nettey, who yanked the ball down the leftfield line for a no-doubter. The power explosion doubled Bransfield's season home run total while giving him 16 in his career, with Gaston (two career) and Nettey (three) each smacking their first home runs of the season.
Oakland averted the shutout with a run in the eighth but was guilty of seven errors (tying the Eck Stadium record) that led to five unearned runs.
Eleven Notre Dame batters collected hits in the game, led by Nettey's 3-for-4 night. The offensive fireworks came despite limited contributions from two hot hitters - Craig Cooper and Brett Lilley - who each batted 9-for-13 in the three-game sweep at South Florida. Lilley was given the day off to rest while Cooper batted 2-for-3 in limited duty, boosting his season average to .436 (he entered the week 19th in the nation, at .429).
Cooper's first-inning double marked the 18th time that he has reached safely in 22 plate appearances when leading off the game for the Notre Dame offense - batting 14-for-18 with three walks and one time hit-by-pitch in those situations.
Tuesday's lineup - consisting of Cooper, Danny Dressman, Jeremy Barnes, Ross Brezovsky, Bransfield, Gaston, Nettey, Greg Lopez and Cody Rizzo - represented the 30th different batting order used by Notre Dame in 31 games this season, with the Irish essentially using different combinations of a 10-player rotation throughout the past few weeks.
Cooper extended his hitting streak to 12 games while Dressman has hits in 11 straight games, with Brezovsky's double-digit hit streak ending at 11 games.
Notre Dame is one of three teams in the just-released NCAA rankings who are listed among the top-30 in team batting average (26th; .319, now .322), staff ERA (23rd; 3.29, now 3.22) and fielding percentage (23rd; .971, now .972). Fellow BIG EAST member West Virginia and Nebraska, a 2006 opponent of Notre Dame's, are the only other teams currently among the top-30 in all three of those categories.
Oakland (7-21) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 - 1 6 7
#21 Notre Dame (23-8) 4-0-0 9-2-0 0-0-X - 15 17 0
Wade Korpi (W, 3-1), Sam Elam (6), Joey Williamson (9) and Sean Gaston, Chris Soriano (6).
Kevin Hale (L, 0-5), Brian Bernatowicz (4), John Toth (4), Ben Darga (7), Justin Wilson (8) and Kevin Chalifour.
Home Runs: Matt Bransfield 2, ND (solo in 1st and 2 on in 4th; 3rd and 4th of season, 15th and 16th of career); Sean Gaston, ND (solo in 1st; 1st of season, 2nd of career); Alex Nettey, ND (solo in 4th; 1st of season, 3rd of career).
Doubles: Craig Cooper (ND), Danny Dressman (ND), Brad Noel (OAK).