May 2, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame baseball team scored in six of the first seven innings, including a decisive five runs in the bottom of the fourth, as the Irish continued their winning ways with Tuesday's 12-1 victory over Cleveland State. Notre Dame (36-9-1) - ranked as high as 8th in the national polls - improved to 20-2 at Eck Stadium this season and now has lost just once in 28 games during the past six weeks.
Five players with multiple hits led the way for a Notre Dame team that totaled 27 baserunners, including 16 hits, eight walks and a pair of hit batters. Half of the Irish hits went for extra bases, with seven doubles and a three-run home run off the bat of freshman third baseman Jeremy Barnes (2-for-4, 4 RBI, HBP). Senior catcher Cody Rizzo (RBI, 3 R, 2B, HBP) paced the hit parade by batting 3-for-4, with three other seniors adding two hits each: first baseman Craig Cooper (RBI, 2 R, 2B, 2 BB), leftfielder Matt Bransfield (RBI, R, 2B) and centerfielder Alex Nettey (RBI, R, 2 2B).
Freshman righthander Brett Graffy (2-0) picked up the win as the third Notre Dame pitcher in a planned rotation, allowing one run on three walks and no hits while striking out two in 3.0 innings of work. One of Notre Dame's top starters, senior lefthander Tom Thornton, returned to action by facing just seven batters in the second and third innings (K). Thornton, Graffy and his fellow freshman righthander David Phelps combined to hold the Vikings without a hit from the 2nd-7th innings.
Six Irish pitchers ultimately combined to limit Cleveland State to eight total baserunners, with only three reaching via hits (plus three walks and a pair of errors).
Cooper - who entered the week ranked 18th in the nation with a .420 season batting average (best among players from nationally-ranked teams) - drew a leadoff walk in the first inning and moved up on Brett Lilley's walk. Danny Dressman then attempted the sacrifice bunt and catcher Josh Geric sailed the throw to third base, with Cooper scooting home on the two-base error.
Nettey went the other way on an 0-1 pitch to start things in the next inning, placing a double down the rightfield line. A groundout and wild pitch put Nettey on third base and Rizzo then doubled into the right-center gap for the 2-0 lead. Cooper followed with an RBI single to left-center for the three-run cushion. Dressman then opened the third inning with a walk, moved up on Ross Brezovsky's one-out single through the right side and scored on Bransfield's single into the left-center gap (extending his career-best hit streak to 10 games).
The lead grew to 9-0 with the five runs in the fourth. Freshman righthander Brian Long (1-2; 3.1 IP, 9 R/8 ER, 8 H, 4 BB) hit Rizzo with a 1-0 pitch and he moved to third base after a stolen base and a muffed catch on the throw by the second baseman. Cooper then walked, Lilley placed an 0-1 pitch down the leftfield line for an RBI single and Dressman sent the ball through the left side for his own opposite-field RBI. Barnes capped the big inning by connecting on a 1-0 pitch and driving a three-run shot over the leftfield fence for his second home run of the season.
Notre Dame's season-long ability to make midgame adjustments - both at the plate and on the mound - has produced a dominating 57-11 scoring edge in the fourth inning this season.
Bransfield added his team-leading 17th double of the season in the sixth and scored on another two-bagger from Nettey, matching his season double total prior to Tuesday's game.
NOTES - Notre Dame and Nebraska remain the only teams in the nation ranked among the top-30 for batting avg., staff ERA and fielding pct. ... ND entered the week ranked 14th in ERA (3.33, now 3.25), 22nd in batting (.322, now .325) and 28th in fielding (.971, now .970) ... the Irish also rank 6th in the nation for win pct. (now .794) ... in addition to ranking 18th in the nation for batting avg., he also entered the week ranked 2nd nationally in runs per game (1.41, now 57 total), 46th in slugging pct. (.682, now .692) and 36th in "toughest to strike out" (15.7 ABs per K; now 15.9) ... Greg Lopez is 32nd on the toughest-to-K list (16.2, now 16.6) ... Dressman ranks 21st nationally in sac. bunts (11) and Lilley is 26th (10) while Nettey is 6th in HBPs (20) ... two ND pitchers rank among the national ERA leaders: Wade Korpi (11th; 1.53) and Jeff Manship (68th; 2.42) ... Korpi also ranks 20th in Ks per 9 IP (11.3) while Manship is 36th with 10.3 Ks per 9 IP ... Kyle Weiland's 12 saves stand 6th in the NCAA rankings ... Barnes extended his hit streak to eight games ... ND has totaled 62 runs in the past six games at Eck Stadium ... Rizzo's 79 career HBPs remain 3rd in ND history, three shy of 2nd place and 13 back of the record ... ND has totaled 13 "big innings" (5-plus runs) this season, with four of those coming in the 4th inning (no other inning has produced more than two big innings) ... the Irish now have totaled 30 games with double-digit hits ... ND has an extended record of 35-3-1 in its past 39 games at Eck Stadium, dating back to April 16 of the 2005 season ... freshman 1B Evan Sharpley - who was out of action with the baseball team throughout the recent spring football season (as a top backup QB) - appeared in his first career game at Eck Stadium and responded with an RBI double while also making a tricky play to snare a hard shot down the line.
Cleveland State (8-30) 0-0-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 - 1 3 3
#8 Notre Dame (36-9-1) 1-2-1 5-0-2 1-0-X - 12 16 2
Brian Long (L, 1-2), Michael Babin (4), Pat McKitrick (7) and Josh Geric, Joe Ferner (7).
David Gruener, Tom Thornton (2), Brett Graffy (4; W, 2-0), David Phelps (7), Sam Elam (8), Joey Williamson (9) and Cody Rizzo, Steve Andres (7).