April 23, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Craig Cooper's fourth leadoff home run of the season extended his hitting streak to 21 games and the BIG EAST player-of-the-year frontrunner went on to bat 4-for-5 as one of seven Irish players with double-digit hits, as the 16th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team established another team record with its 22nd consecutive victory, 14-12 over Rutgers in Sunday's series finale. Notre Dame (32-8, 14-1 BIG EAST) - now on a 29-3 extended tear over the past seven weeks - already owned the team record for consecutive wins in a single season but now can claim the longest winning streak at any time in the program's 114-year history, besting a stretch of 21 straight wins that spanned the 1906 and 1907 seasons.
**Note - check back later to this release for a full recap, including photos from today's game and updated team notes.**
The wild game saw the Notre Dame offense total a season-high 19 hits while Rutgers (17-18-1, 7-8) rapped out 20. The visitors claimed a 3-0 lead in the first but Cooper's leadoff blast and a three-run shot from Matt Bransfield quickly gave the Irish the lead in the bottom of the inning. Rutgers later held a 6-5 lead in the third but the Irish again answered right back, scoring three times for a 9-6 lead and ultimately leading 14-6 before the Scarlet Knights made things interesting with six runs in the seventh.
Senior lefthander Tom Thornton was hit in the leg by a first-inning linedrive and later had to leave the game with one out in the second. Jess Stewart (4-1; 4.2 IP, 2 R, 8 H, 2 BB, 2 Ks) held the fort to pick up the win. The Irish needed three other pitchers to escape the seventh, with rookie righthander Kyle Weiland going on to record his 10th save in 11 opportunities this seaosn. Weiland - who broke Aaron Heilman's Notre Dame record for saves by a freshman (9, in '98) - retired eight of the 11 batters he faced, striking out four while allowing just two hits.
Cooper batted 4-for-5 with 5 RBI and 3 runs scored, plus the home run, a pair of doubles and a walk. Sean Gaston (R, 2B) and Greg Lopez (3 R) both contributed three hits to the team's season title while four other Irish players had two-hit games: Danny Dressman (RBI, BB), Jeremy Barnes (RBI, R), Bransfield (3 RBI, 2 R, HR, 2B) and Cody Rizzo (2 RBI, 3 R, HBP).
Check back later for full recap and updates.
Rutgers 3-2-1 0-0-0 6-0-0 - 12 20 4 #16 Notre Dame 4-2-3 4-0-1 0-0-X - 14 19 1
Home Runs: Craig Cooper, ND (solo in 1st; 9th of season, 26th of career); Matt Bransfield, ND (2 on in 1st; 5th of season, 17th of career); Steve Hook, RU (solo in 3rd; 8th of season).