April 20, 2005
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Craig Cooper battled back from an 0-2 count to launch a game-ending home run over the leftfield fence, as Notre Dame outlasted Purdue, 9-7, in a wild 12-inning game that marked the first action for the Irish at downtown Coveleski Stadium in more than a decade. It had been nearly three years - dating back to Brian Stavisky's blast versus Rice at the 2002 College World Series - since Notre Dame had won an a game-ending home run.
Notre Dame (21-15) - now victories in seven of its last eight games - had surged to a 7-6 lead after scoring three times in the bottom of the 8th but the Irish failed to close out the win in regulation, as Purdue (11-22) staged its own rally to tie the scored in the top of the 9th.
It had been 11 years since a Notre Dame baseball team played at "The Cove" but Alex Nettey might be in favor of shifting the rest of Notre Dame's home schedule to the home of the single-A South Bend Silverhawks. The junior centerfielder entered the game mired in a 1-for-18 slump and had gone 12 games without registering multiple hits - but that quickly ended on Wednesday night, as the Irish leadoff batter went 4-for-6 with a solo home run that forged a 3-3 tie in the 3rd (he also scored as part of yet another productive 1st inning for the Irish).
Freshman third baseman Brett Lilley - still playing error-free at the hot corner (spanning eight games and 34 chances) - hit 2-for-4 from the 2-hole (2 BB, 2 R) but the rest of the Irish batters combined for a sub-.200 night (6-for-31). The next batter in the lineup, Matt Edwards, and cleanup man Craig Cooper had combined for an 0-for-9 night (with one walk each) before Cooper's game-ending blast (the 10th of the Mainieri era, see list below)
Lilley opened the bottom of the 12th with a full-count walk versus sophomore righthander Andrew Groves, who then struck out Edwards and had an 0-2 count on Cooper. But the junior outfielder took the next two pitches for balls before turning on fastball and sending it well over the leftfield fence for his fourth home run of the season and 14th of his Notre Dame career.
Purdue's 17-hit attack included four players with three hits but the Boilermakers left 15 men on base. Notre Dame also had its share of chances with 23 total baserunners - several of which were erased during the first seven innings, when the Irish hit into five double plays.
Freshman Tony Langford (1-0) served as the DH throughout the game but also was sent to the bullpen, eventually taking the mound as Notre Dame's sixth relief pitcher of the night. The rookie righthander inherited the go-ahead run on third base with one out in the 12th but came up with a clutch strikeout and later serve up a flyout to maintain the 6-6 score.
Langford's classmate Wade Korpi endured an adventurous six innings that saw Purdue cash in 11 hits and one walk for six runs, just three of them earned. The lefthander struck out one batter while locating 58 of his 91 pitches for strikes.
Junior righthander Dan Slater (6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 3 Ks) also had no-decision in the extra-inning game. Groves (0-1) took the loss as Purdue' fourth reliever of the night (2.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, BB, 3 Ks).
The Notre Dame offense continued its season-long success in the 1st inning by plating a pair of runs. Nettey sent a 1-2 pitch up the middle and Lilly beat out a single off the third baseman's glove. A double steal ultimately left both runners in scoring position for Langford, who worked ahead in the count before sending a 2-0 pitch through the left side of the infield for a two-run single.
The Irish now have totaled 32 runs in the 1st inning this season (36 games), scoring at least once in the 1st inning of 15 games this season (eight with multiple 1st-inning runs).
Purdue answered with three runs in the 2nd, including RBI singles from Neal Gorka and John Hunter. Nettey then forged a 3-3 tie in the 3rd by pulling an 0-1 pitch down the leftfield line and over the fence for his second home run of the season.
The Boilermakers then benefited from the hard and unfamiliar playing surface, driving a couple balls through the infield to help push across three unearned runs in the 4th. The inning included three hits, an error and a sacrifice bunt, with Mitch Hilligoss providing a two-run single that took a tough hop past second baseman Ross Brezovsky.
Purdue could have padded its lead after loading the bases in the 6th but Korpi ended his outing by inducing a flyout from Andy Dahl.
The Irish overcame a double play to chip away with a run moments later. Slater hit Langford with a 1-1 pitch and extra-base specialist Steve Andres then did his thing, doubling to center field to produce a 6-4 deficit. Andres - who continues to have more extra-base hits this season (8; 4 HR, 3B, 3 2B) than singles (6) - entered the game with just a .206 season batting average but a .460 slugging percentage.
The Boilers had another bases-loaded chance in the 8th but close Ryan Doherty took the mound and caught Mike Coles looking at a 1-2 pitch to end the threat.
Cooper led off the bottom of the 8th with a five-pitch walk, ending the night for freshman righthander Allan Donato. Junior righthander Trae Dauby did not fare much better, losing Andres on four pitches, and Brezovsky then went the other way on a 2-2 pitch, skipping a double down the leftfield line to plate Cooper for a 6-5 game.
Junior righthander Chris Toneguzzi took the mound as Purdue's third pitcher of the inning and recorded a strikeout - but sophomore catcher Sean Gaston brought home the tying and go-ahead runs with an opposite-field strike that eluded the third baseman for a 7-6 Irish lead.
Doherty failed to deliver his 19th career save at Notre Dame, due in large part to a leadoff walk drawn by Spencer Ingladson. Gorka then bunted the runner over and Hunter drove an 0-2 pitch up the middle to force extra innings (Doherty still had some work to do but Hilligoss went down swinging at a 1-2 pitch, leaving two men on base).
The Boilers had a golden chance to take the lead in the 12th, after Dane Wolfe's leadoff double down the leftfield line (he advanced on a Hilligos flyout to right-center). Langford then came on in relief of lefthander Mike Dury, with the righthanded-hitting Andy Dahl bringing his all-Big Ten bat to the plate - but Langford caught him looking at a 2-2 pitch and (after an intentional walk) served up a flyout by Coles to preserve the tie.
Lilley's error-free debut at third base also has coincided with an eight-game errorless streak for junior shortstop Greg Lopez (spanning 49 chances). Lopez, who opened the season with no errors in the first 15 games, now has totaled 28 error-free games this season and 70 during the past two seasons. The strong defensive play by the leftside infielders Lilley and Lopez (no errors in 83 combined chances) has overlapped with the team's current 7-1 run, lifting the Irish from a 14-14 record to 21-15.
Notre Dame is starting a stretch of playing games in five straight days, with freshman RHP Joey Williamson slated to get the start on Thursday vs. Valparaiso - followed by junior LHP Tom Thornton (Fri. vs. Villanova) and sophomore RHP Dan Kapala (Sat. vs. VU) while Sunday's starter is TBA.
WALKING OFF IN STYLE - Paul Mainieri's 11 years at Notre Dame have included 471 wins and 11 of them now have ended on home runs ... it had been 162 games since ND's previous game-ending home run (longest drought of the Mainieri era; ironically, the first game-ending HR was in the 162nd game of the Mainieri era) ... the dramatic HRs include one in '97, two in '98, one in '99, three in '00 (in three straight BIG EAST series), one in '01 and two in '02 ... Alec Porzel (3), Jeff Felker (2) and Brian Stavisky (2) each hit multiple game-ending HRs while Kris Billmaier was on base for three straight (spanning '00 and '01) ... in addition to Stavisky's blast vs. Rice at the '02 CWS, one of the most significant game-ending HRs was Ken Meyer's 2-out grand slam to beat Central Michigan, 5-3, in '01 (ND claimed the #1 national ranking days later) ... here's the list
* 4/17/97 - ND 8, Indiana Tech 7 (10) ... fr. 1B Jeff Felker (LH hitter) with 1-out, to RF, vs. fr. RHP Jason Bullinger
* 4/2/98 - ND 6, Bowling Green 4 (11) ... so. 2B Brant Ust (RH) with 2-out, 2-1 count, scores Jeff Wagner, down RF line, vs. so. RHP Ryan Streb
* 5/3/98 - ND 5, West Virginia 3 (15) ... fr. LF Alec Porzel (RH) with 2-out, 2-1 count, scores Ust, to LF, vs. jr. David Kloes
* 4/11/99 - ND 9, Pittsburgh 8 ... so. 2B Porzel (RH), 0 outs, 1st pitch, to LF, vs. jr. RHP Steve Vickroy
* 4/30/00 - ND 9, St. John's 8 ... sr. 1B Jeff Felker (LH), 1 outs, 1st pitch, to deep CF, vs. fr. RHP Tom Klemm
* 5/6/00 - ND 11, Pittsburgh 8 ... jr. SS Porzel (RH), 2-out, 1st pitch, scores Kris Billmaier and Ken Meyer, to LF, vs. jr. RHP Lou Kammermeier
* 5/13/00 - ND 4, Rutgers 3 ... fr. RF Brian Stavisky (LH), 0 outs, 0-1 count, scores Billmaier, to deep RC, vs. jr. LHP Buddy Gallagher
* 3/15/02 - ND 7, Arkansas-Little Rock 5 ... so. 1B Joe Thaman (LH), 1-out, full-count, scores Bushey, to RF, vs. so. RHP Brad Cherry
* 6/17/02 - ND 5, Rice 3 ... jr. LF Stavisky (LH), 1-out, 1-2 count, scores Steve Sollmann, to RF, vs. sr. LHP Justin Crowder
Purdue 0-3-0 3-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-0 - 7 17 1
Notre Dame 2-0-1 0-0-1 0-3-0 0-0-2 - 9 12 3
Dan Slater, Allan Donato (7), Trae Dauby (8), Chris Toneguzzi (8), Andrew Groves (10; L, 0-1).