April 24, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Seven different Notre Dame batters collected multiple hits in a season-high 20-hit effort while freshman lefthander Tom Thornton allowed just one earned run in six innings of work as the 16th-ranked Irish rolled on in their 12-game homestand with Thursday night's 13-3 win over visiting Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne.
Notre Dame (31-9) - which continued to play without leading hitter Steve Sollmann (day-to-day with a sprained wrist) - had been outscored 17-16 in the first inning of its previous 39 games but the Irish turned the tables on the Mastodons, pushing across six runs in the first frame thanks to six hits and a walk. It marked just the fourth time in the 2003 season that Notre Dame had scored multiple runs in the first inning and the first time that the Irish had scored more than two 1st-inning runs all season.
The Irish are set to return to Eck Stadium this weekend for a BIG EAST series versus Connecticut, with a Saturday doubleheader and single game on Sunday (both day's action starts at 12:05). Senior righthander Ryan Kalita is the probable Game 1 starter, followed by sophomore righthanders John Axford (Game 2) and Chris Niesel (Game 3, on Sunday).
IPFW (16-25-1) scored three runs in the fourth inning, after four hits, a walk, a hit batter and an error on a dropped tag in a pickoff rundown. The Mastodons became the 279th all-time opponent in Notre Dame baseball history, with Newman and Jacksonville joining that list earlier this season.
Freshman leftfielder Brennan Grogan snapped out of his recent 2-for-19 slump by batting 3-for-4 in his first start as the No. 3 batter, also adding an RBI double and hustling around for three runs scored. His classmate and rightfielder Cody Rizzo (3 R, BB as 2-hole hitter) joined sophomore first baseman Matt Edwards (3 RBI, in fourth start at cleanup spot) and senior centerfielder Kris Billmaier (3 RBI, R, 2B in 5th spot) in each batting 2-for-3 near the top of the lineup while three others hit 2-for-4: junior catcher Javi Sanchez (RBI 2B, R), sophomore shortstop Matt Macri (2 R, BB, SB) and junior second baseman Tim Murray (3 RBI).
Notre Dame entered the week ranked 27th in the nation for team ERA (3.55) but has sliced that number to 3.35, after allowing just one earned run in each of the three games this week.
Thornton - who lowered his ERA from 1.95 to 1.88 - scattered five hits and four walks over his six-inning, 85-pitch outing, with four strikeouts. Sophomore Tyler Jones and seniors Matt Laird and Brandon Viloria then each logged an inning to close out the win.
POSTGAME NOTE UPDATES: Billmaier is batting 7-for-18 (.389) with eight RBI in the last five games (after a 1-for-20, 2-RBI slump)...Edwards has similar numbers in his last four games (6-for-12, 6 RBI), after an 0-for-12, 1-RBI drought...Macri's 12-game surge (17-for-38, .447) has pushed his season batting average to .308...Rizzo had been 3-for-16 in the previous five games before the 2-for-3 night...freshman Matt Bransfield had a pinch-hit single and is batting 6-for-13 in his last five games played...after the six-run 1st, the Irish scored another run in their next at-bat - extending the season scoring average in the 2nd inning to 55-8...the game marked ND's 18th "big win" (margin of 5-plus runs) this season, just three shy of the entire 2002 total of 21 big wins...ND now has totaled 16 "big innings" (5-plus runs) this season (13 in the last 20 games), with the 6-run inning bested this season only by three 9-run innings and Wednesday's 7-spot vs. Cleveland State...Thornton and his classmate Ryan Doherty (RHP, 3.00, 1-0, 27 Ks, 6 BB, 10 H in 15 IP) have combined for the following numbers in their rookie season: a 2.19 ERA, 4-0 record, a .240 opponent batting average, 45 Ks, 18 BB and 46 H in 55.1 IP...Viloria still has allowed just one earned run in 15.1 innings pitched this season (0.59 ERA), with his 2.49 career ERA (in 76 IP) now tied with Jack Mitchell ('59-'61) and former teammate Aaron Heilman for 2nd place in the ND record book (min. 60 IP) behind Nick Palihnich's 2.36 ('59-'61)...Viloria likewise has yet to walk a batter this season, with his career walk average (1.30 BB per 9 IP) well on its way to besting the ND record set by 1993 grad. Alan Walania (1.64)...Viloria's stellar control also includes just one wild pitch and four hit batters in his career (no WP or HBs in '03)...since 1999, ND has faced 19 first-time opponents, with a 14-5 record in those games (wins over JMU, Oakland, Akron, FAU, New Mexico, UOP, Sam Houston, UCSB, Fairfield, UALR, Rochester, Rice, Newman and IPFW,with loses to FIU, Missouri, UNF, South Florida and JU).
IPFW 0-0-0 3-0-0 0-0-0 - 3 7 1 Notre Dame 6-1-0 2-0-1 0-3-X - 13 20 2David Zachary (L, 3-3), Eric Lambert (7) and Adam Gibson.
Tom Thornton (W, 3-1), Tyler Jones, Matt Laird, Brandon Viloria and Javi Sanchez.
Doubles: Brennan Grogan (ND), Kris Billmaier (ND), Javi Sanchez (ND), Brent Alwine (IPFW).