April 17, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Jeff Samardzija turned in another solid effort out of the bullpen and Cody Rizzo had a hand in four of Notre Dame's runs, as the Irish baseball team defeated Connecticut, 9-7, to complete the three-game sweep of the BIG EAST series in Sunday-afternoon action at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (20-15, 8-4) - now 11-3 at home this season - remained in 3rd-place in the BIG EAST standings while moving closer to 2nd-place Boston College (9-4), which lost its series finale at 4th-place Rutgers (7-5). St. John's (9-2) continues to lead the conference standings while Villanova (7-6) is 5th and West Virginia and Pittsburgh (both 5-8) now are tied for 6th.
Connecticut (21-14, 4-7) fell into 8th place in the BIG EAST while Georgetown and Seton Hall are tied for 9th (4-9). Sunday's other results included SJU winning at WVU, Pittsburgh taking the series at Villanova and SHU downing Georgetown.
Notre Dame posted its second comeback win of the weekend, after facing an early 3-0 deficit and then trailing 4-3 in the middle innings. Clutch hitting was the name of the game for the Irish in Sunday's win, as the hosts plated nine runs on just nine hits while stranding only four baserunners. Notre Dame hit .412 with 2 outs during the series (14-for-34), including 4-for-11 in the series finale as six of the eight Irish RBI came with 2 outs.
Sophomore righthander Jeff Manship had to leave the game after facing just three batters, due to a linedrive that glanced off his hand (his status is to-be-determined). UConn sophomore catcher Larry Day - a former summer-league teammate of Manship and Notre Dame junior shortstop Greg Lopez (with the Ohio Thunder) - ironically was the player who hit the ball that forced his former teammate from the game.
Samradzija (5-0) had been slated to enter in the mid-innings, as the Irish were hoping for another strong combined effort from the pair of second-year pitchers. The two-sport standout instead trotted to the mound with two outs in the top of the 1st and went on to allow four runs (three earned) on five hits and one walk in 6-1 innings, locating 65 of his pitches for strikes (48 of 74) while his 19 outs included 11 groundouts, three infield popups and one strikeout.
Rizzo shook off a 3-for-16 slump over the previous six games by matching that hit total in Sunday's game. The junior rightfielder found multiple ways to beat the Huskies, batting 3-for-3 (2 RBI, 3 R) with a 2-run home run, his 60th career time hit-by-pitch and his team-leading 10th and 11th stolen base of the season.
The Irish surged to an 8-4 lead in the bottom of the 7th but UConn made things interesting by scoring three times in the 8th. Junior All-America closer Ryan Doherty took the mound with the tying run on third base but the 7-foot-1 righthander went on to retire all four batters he faced for his fifth save of the season and 18th of his career (two shy of the ND record).
Junior lefthander Brendan McGinn (3-4) suffered the hard-luck loss, as half of the eight runs charged to him were unearned. McGinn allowed seven hits and just one walk while striking out one Irish batter in 6.1 innings.
Samardzija allowed three leadoff batters to reach but he then buckled down, holding UConn to 2-for-9 batting with runners on base and just 1-for-9 with 2 outs.
UConn opened the scoring in the 2d, when Josh Farkes singled through the left side, moved up on a stolen base and scored on Dennis Donovan's single into right-center. The Huskies then stretched to a 3-0 cushion in the 4th, thanks to a Jeff Hourigan single, Russ D'Argento's walk, an RBI single off the bat of Matt Karl and the ensuing high throw by centerfielder Alex Nettey (allowing an unearned run to score).
The Irish came right back to tie the game, sparked by a solo shot to dead-center by senior Matt Edwards (who made a rare start at DH). The Edwards home run was one of several clutch 2-strike hits for the Irish, as he parked a 2-2 pitch from McGinn for his team-leading 12th home run of the season and 32nd of his career.
Notre Dame then fashioned its first 2-out rally of the day, as freshman leftfielder Tony Langford sent a first-pitch double into left-center. McGinn almost was out of the inning but Rizzo delivered on a 1-2 pitch, pulling his second home run of the season over the leftfield fence for a 3-3 game.
The visitors had an answer of their own in the top of the 5th, as Austin Wasserman drilled a leadoff triple into the right-center gap and scored on Tony Mallozzi's sacrifice fly.
The Irish were running out of outs in the 7th, when Rizzo hit a 1-out single and moved up on a stolen base - before five runners crossed the plate for the decisive 2-out rally. McGinn hit Lopez with a 2-2 pitch and sophomore Sean Gaston delivered on the same count, pulling an RBI single through the right side to tie the game. A costly fielding error on the second baseman Wasserman then allowed the go-ahead run to score and Brett Lilley later walked on four pitches to load the bases (after a wild pitch), brining freshman righthander David Erickson out of the bullpen for the third straight game. Erickson lost Edwards on a five-pitch walk and sophomore first baseman Craig Cooper lived up to his .447 season batting average with runners in scoring position, chasing home two more runs with a single down the leftfield line.
The Huskies did not go quietly, scoring three times in the 8th vs. sophomore righthander Derik Olvey. Mallozzi singled and scored on Hourigan's home run over the rightfield fence while D'Argento beat out an infield single, stole second and scored on Donovan's single up the middle. Freshman lefthander Wade Korpi was summoned but pinch-hitter Vin DiFazio singled to left-center to put runners on the corners - but Doherty ended the threat by forcing pinch-hitter Pat Mahoney into a leftside groundout.
Rizzo's hustle led to an insurance run moments later, as he hit a leadoff single through the left side, moved up on a stolen base and wild pitch and scored on a Lopez sacrifice fly.
NOTES - Edwards remains 9th on the ND career HR list, just one behind Joe Binkiewicz ('89-'92) and former teammate Brian Stavisky ('00-'02) ... Edwards now has 47 RBI in 35 games this season and is tied with J.J. Brock ('94-'97) for 7th with 174 career RBI, just two behind Binkiewicz ... Cooper's .447 batting avg. with runners in scoring position trails only Lilley's .455 ... Edwards has matched his '04 home run total ... the only ND player with more HRs during the past five seasons was Matt Macri's 14 in '04 ... ND has swept the past three 3-game series vs. UConn and now holds a 17-6 overall edge in the series ... Edwards (2-for-3) now owns a .441 career batting avg. vs. UConn (10 RBI, 7 R, 3 HR, 2 2B, 3 BB, 2 SB) ... Doherty has yet to allow a run in three career appearances vs. the Huskies (4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 Ks, 2 HB) ... top ND hitters in the series included Lilley (6-for-10, 3 R, 2 BB), Rizzo (4-for-8, 2 RBI, 4 R, HR, 2B, HBP), Edwards (5-for-11, 3 RBI, 2 R, HR, BB), Gaston (5-for-11, 2 RBI, R, BB, 2 SB) and Lopez (4-for-9, 4 RBI, 4 R, 3B, 2 HBO, SF) ... ND hit .344 in the series (19 R, 2 HR, 3B, 3 2B, 7 BB, 4 HBP, 13 Ks, 5-6 SB) with a .983 fielding pct. that included just one error by a non-pitcher ... the ND staff held UConn to .234 batting (.209 by RH hitters; .219 overall with 2 outs) while posting a 3.12 weekend ERA and walking just two Huskies batters over the course of the three games (7 Ks, WP, 23 H in 26 IP) ... the Irish hit .385 (10-for-26) with runners in scoring position during the series ... Gaston hit 3-for-5 with 2 outs in the series while Cooper had three 2-out RBI ... ND has played 46 all-time BIG EAST series at Eck Stadium and still has lost just three of them, winning 36 with seven splits ... the 2nd-longest scoring streak in ND history now stands at 182 games (412 of last 413) ... Rizzo's 60 career HBPs remain 9th in NCAA history but he will move into a tie for 6th the next time he is plunked ... the team HBP total (71) already ranks 4th in ND history, behind 106 in '04, 75 in '93 and 74 in '03 (the Irish now have totaled 251 HBPs over the course of the '03-'05 seasons) ... Samardzija owns a 2.19 ERA and .182 opp. batting avg. in his past two outings, vs. BC and UConn (2-0, 12.1 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 5 Ks).
Connecticut (21-14, 4-7 BIG EAST) 0-1-0 2-1-0 0-3-0 - 7 11 1
Home Runs: Matt Edwards, ND (solo in 4th; 12th of season, 32nd of career); Cody Rizzo, ND (1 on in 4th; 2nd of season, 10th of career); Jeff Hourigan, UConn (1 on in 8th; 5th of season).