April 14, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Monday was a big day for the sophomore class as the 13th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team - less than 24 hours removed from its return from a weekend series vs. Creighton - kept rolling with an 8-3 win over Central Michigan, extending the program's winning streak to 17 games.
With a win on Tuesday over Eastern Michigan, the Irish (26-6) would tie the 18-game run by the 1991 team (a squad which includes current Major Leaguers Craig Counsell and Chris Michalak) for the longest single-season winning streaks in the program's 111-year history. The 1906 Notre Dame squad won its final four games and the 1907 team then opened 17-0, yielding the longest overall winning streak in the program's history (21 games, with the current squad tying the '07 team for the second-longest single-season streak).
Sophomore righthander John Axford (7-0) remained unbeaten with seven solid innings of work while his classmates Matt Macri and Matt Edwards - both of whom missed most of the 2002 season due to injuries - combined for five of the team's 11 hits, five of the seven RBI and a pair of booming home runs.
Central Michigan (10-16) trailed 5-1 before touching Axford for another run in the seventh and adding a third score in the ninth. Lefthander T.J. Johnson (1-4) took the loss, after allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits and one walk, with one strikeout.
Axford - who has won his last 11 decisions with the Irish, dating back to a 13-6 loss at Connecticut in the first BIG EAST series of the 2002 season - improved to 12-2 in his Notre Dame career, allowing the two runs on five hits and five walks (with four Ks).
Notre Dame - which has won 24 of its last 26 (with both losses coming in extra innings) - recorded double-digit hits for the 10th time in the winning streak, with Edwards batting 2-for-5 while Macri (3-for-3) posted a career-high total in hits.
Macri opened the scoring in the second inning, driving a two-out triple into the right-center gap to score Cody Rizzo. Edwards then delivered with two outs in the third, sending a single through the left side of the infield to score Steve Sollmann for a 2-1 lead.
A fourth-inning double from Javi Sanchez - back in the lineup after missing four games with back spasms - preceded Macri's two-run shot over the wall in left-center, yielding a 4-1 cushion. It was the third home run of Macri's brief Notre Dame career and his first since the fourth game of the season at Arizona State.
Macri scored again for a 5-1 lead in the sixth, sending a leadoff single up the middle and moving up on an Alex Nettey sacrifice bunt before scoring on a stolen base and an errant throw from the catcher on the play.
Edwards launched his sixth home run of the season - and fifth in the last nine games - in the bottom of the seventh, depositing the blast over the centerfield wall (his last four home runs all have gone to dead-center field).
Edwards (2-for-5) and Sollmann (2-for-4) now own identical .383 marks atop the team batting charts, with Sollmann (51-for-133) totaling 13 more at-bats than Edwards (46-for-120). Sollmann swiped two bases to bring his career total to 50 stolen bases, good for seventh in Notre Dame history and just four behind former teammate Paul O'Toole.
WINNING STREAK NOTES - Despite winning a pair of one-run games over the weekend vs. Creighton (ND's first one-run games since the first game of the winning streak), the Irish have won most of the games in the current streak by comfortable margins; the average margin of victory in the 17-game streak now stands at 5.9 runs, including 11 wins by five-plus runs, five by eight-plus and three double-digit victories; the three one-run games (also 3-2 at Villanova) are the only games in the streak decided by fewer than three runs; the Irish own a .337 team batting average, 2.58 staff ERA and .968 fielding pct. (20 errors) in the streak; top hitters in the streak include Edwards (.413, 26-for-63, 28 RBI, .788 slugging pct., 5 HR, 3B, 6 2B, 8 BB) and the freshman outfield/DH trip of Craig Cooper (.400, 18-for-45, 6 RBI, 15 R, 2 3B, 2 2B, 8 BB, 4 SB), Brennan Grogan (.389, 21-for-54, 10 RBI, 17 R, 4 3B, 2B, 5 BB, 5 SB) and Cody Rizzo (.373, 19-for-51, 17 RBI, 23 R, 2 HR, 3B, 6 2B); after a slow start at the plate, Macri is batting .352 (19-for-54) during the winning streak with 11 RBI and 13 runs scored (HR, 3 3B, 2 2B, 8 BB); Axford's four starts in the win streak (4-0) have yielded a 1.80 ERA, a .182 opponent batting average, 31 Ks and 14 walks in 25 innings.
Central Michigan (10-16) 0-1-0 0-0-0 1-0-1 - 3 7 1 #13 Notre Dame (26-6) 0-1-1 2-0-1 2-1-X - 8 11 0
T. J. Johnson (L, 1-4), Adam Sutherland and Brian Campbell.
John Axford (7-0), Tom Thornton (8), Brandon Viloria (8) and Javi Sanchez.
Home Runs: Matt Macri ND (1 on in 2nd, 2nd of season), Matt Edwards (solo in 7th, 6th of season).
Triples: Macri (ND), Mike Gates (CMU), Chase Welker (CMU).
Doubles: Steve Sollmann (ND), Javi Sanchez (ND), Ryan Krueger (CMU).