April 12, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Craig Cooper's first-inning home run continued his impressive run as the Notre Dame leadoff hitter and the Irish offense tacked on seven more runs in the fourth, giving David Phelps the early 8-0 cushion as Notre Dame pushed its winning streak to 14 games in Wednesday night's 8-2 victory over visiting Manchester College.
Notre Dame (24-8) - which has launched 12 home runs while batting .353 during the current win streak (to go along with a 2.36 staff ERA and .978 fielding pct. in the streak) - will continue its 12-game homestand in a rare Thursday doubleheader versus BIG EAST co-leader St. John's (8-1 league record), completing a similarly rare stretch of seven games in seven days. Junior righthander Jeff Samardzija is slated to start the first game for the Irish (12:07) while senior lefthander Tom Thornton will go in game-2 (4:07). Both games will be nine innings and the second game will not start earlier than 4:07, regardless of the end time from the first game.
The 14-game winning streak matches the eighth-longest in the 114-year history of Notre Dame baseball and has been bested just three times in the 12-year Paul Mainieri era.
Cooper - who has matched his career-best with a 13-game hitting streak - connected on a 1-1 pitch from lefthander Marcus Miller, clearing the fence in deep right-center for his 21st career home run and fourth of the season, with each of those long balls coming over the course of the winning streak. The senior first baseman now has reached on 19-of-23 plate appearances (83 percent) when leading off the game for the Notre Dame offense, batting 15-for-19 (.789) in those instances with three walks and one time hit-by-pitch. His first-inning output as the Irish leadoff hitter now includes two home runs and six doubles.
The Irish now have gone 22-3 during the past six weeks, a streak that was sparked by Cooper's move into the leadoff spot.
Notre Dame's seven runs in the fourth marked the third time in the past four games that the Irish have scored seven or more runs in an inning, outscoring the opponents 43-8 overall during those four games. Switch-hitter Mike Dury moved over the left side versus righthanded reliever Shaun Carrico and delivered the big hit of the inning, lifting a three-run shot over the rightfield fence for his second home run of the season and fourth of his Notre Dame career.
The Irish have dominated their opponents in the middle innings of the win streak, racking up a 41-3 scoring edge in just the 4th-5th innings - including a 16-0 margin in the fourth inning alone during the past two games.
Phelps (2-0) faced only 25 batters (four above the minimum) in seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and just one walk while striking out seven in his 93-pitch stint. Manchester (20-5) pushed across a pair of runs in the ninth to avoid the shutout.
Cooper (2-for-3) entered the week ranked 19th nationally in batting average (.429) and now has raised that mark to .442, including an eye-popping .542 during the win streak (26-for-48, 11 RBI, 20 R, 4 HR, 3B, 6 2B, 5 BB, just 2Ks, 5 SB). He also had a 13-game hitting streak late in the 2005 season and joins two former All-Americans - Steve Stanley and Steve Sollmann - as the only Mainieri-era players ever to post multiple hit streaks of 13-plus games during their careers.
Senior centerfielder Alex Nettey continued his hot hitting by batting 2-for-3 with a run scored from the No. 8 spot in the batting order while freshman shortstop Jeremy Barnes drove in two runs versus the Spartans.
The Irish now have scored in the first inning of 19 games this season and own a 40-11 scoring edge in the first. Notre Dame played error-free for the ninth time in 2006 and has finished with 0-1 errors in 25 of its 32 games.
Wednesday's starting lineup - consisting of Cooper, Brett Lilley, Danny Dressman, Barnes, Ross Brezovsky, Steve Andres, Dury, Nettey and Cody Rizzo - represented the 32nd different batting order used by the Irish, with none of the orders having repeated all season. The Irish also now have fielded 25 different position combinations in the 2006 games.
Manchester (20-5) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-2 - 2 6 3
Marcus Miller (4-1), Shaun Carrico (4), Brett Smalley (4), Joe Egner (7), Mitch Waters (8) and Michael Shearer.