May 9, 2004
STORRS, Conn. - Senior second baseman Steve Sollmann had two hits in returning to action after missing a month with a fractured jaw, while junior Matt Macri just missed hitting for the cycle, as the eighth-ranked University of Notre Dame baseball team (37-9, 14-5 BIG EAST) swept a doubleheader at Connecticut (22-23, 6-13 BIG EAST) with 4-0 and 11-4 victories Sunday afternoon at Christian Field. Another win on Sunday would put the Irish in a tie for first place in the conference, along with current leader Pittsburgh (33-12, 15-5 BIG EAST).
Sollmann was 2-for-5 on the day, batting in the 2-hole with a football-style face mask attached to his helmet in his first games back after missing 21. He also reached base in three other plate appearances, drawing a pair of walks and getting hit by a pitch, and scored and drove in runs in the second game. Sollmann underwent surgery on April 5 after an in-game collision with a teammate two days earlier.
Macri, hitting out of the leadoff spot, ended his BIG EAST road slump by going 4-for-5 in the second game, highlighted by a two-run homer in the fourth (his eighth of the season) and a pair of doubles. His second two-bagger was of the ground-rule variety and would have been a possible triple had it not bounded over the outfield fence. Macri, who also walked, had a pair of RBI and scored four times to increase his league-leading season total to 57.
Junior righthander Chris Niesel went the distance in game one, scattering six hits and striking out six, while walking just one in improving to 6-2 this season. Over his last two appearances, Niesel has 18 strikeouts and has surrendered just one base on balls.
The bottom half of Notre Dame's lineup hit well in the clutch, as each of the Nos. 6-9 hitters - Craig Cooper, Matt Edwards, Cody Rizzo, and Greg Lopez - knocked in a run with two outs. Cooper and Lopez both had a pair of hits, including a double apiece.
The Irish had seven hits and did not make an error in beating Connecticut's top starter, righthander Jeff Hourigan (4-5), who is a transfer from Clemson.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second game, keyed by more second-inning offense. The Irish scored three times in the second (after having put up a pair of runs in the second inning of the opening game) to increase their season scoring edge to 45-7 in the inning.
Edwards hit his seventh home run of the season in the seventh, and junior righthander Grant Johnson got the win to improve to 3-0. He gave up three runs, just one earned, and four hits, while walking three and striking out six in five innings of work.
The start of the doubleheader was delayed two hours due to rain in the Storrs area.
Monday's game is set for a noon (EDT) start, with sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton (5-2, 3.84) going to the mound for the Irish.
#8 Notre Dame 0-2-0 0-0-2 0 - 4 7 0 Connecticut 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 - 0 6 1 Chris Niesel (W, 6-2) and Javi Sanchez. Jeff Hourigan (L, 4-5) and Larry Day. Doubles: Matt Bransfield (ND), Craig Cooper (ND), Greg Lopez (ND) #8 Notre Dame 1-3-0 2-0-4 1-0-0 - 11 15 3 (37-9, 14-5 BIG EAST) Connecticut 0-0-2 0-1-0 0-0-1 - 4 8 3 (22-23, 6-13 BIG EAST) Grant Johnson (W, 3-0), Jeff Samardzija (6), Tyler Jones (9), Rico Bertucci (9) and Javi Sanchez. Mike James (L, 5-4), Joe Smeraglino (6) and Larry Day. Home Runs: Matt Macri, ND (1 on in 4th, 8th of season); Matt Edwards, ND (solo in 7th, 7th of season) Doubles: Macri 2 (ND), Greg Lopez (ND), Jeff Hourigan (UC)
(The Irish are off to a team dinner; please check back to und.com later for a full recap later tonight.)