May 16, 2005
* Note that this full recap also includes updated team and individual notes *
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Just one day after bringing home only six of 30 baserunners in a doubleheader sweep at the hands of Pittsburgh, the Notre Dame offense responded in stunning fashion by plating 21 of its 28 baserunners in Monday's 21-1 win over the Panthers. For the second straight day, the teams flipped spots in the BIG EAST standings, with the Irish returning to third place and maintaining control of their own postseason fate.
Monday's recipe for success included 11-for-16 batting (.688) with runners in scoring position (after just 2-for-16 in Sunday's games) and 7-for-15 with 2-outs. The Irish also racked up plenty of big extra-base hits, led by a season-high four home runs (with a pair of 3-run shots) and two doubles that chased home five more runs.
The domination extended to the mound, as sophomore righthander Jeff Samardzija (6-1) combined with relievers Mike Dury and Joey Williamson on a 2-hitter. Samardzija showed his competitiveness by delivering in the pressure-packed situation, with four strikeouts and three walks in his 6.0-inning, 89-pitch outing. The two-sport standout allowed three leadoff batters to reach but kept the Panthers hitless with runners on base (0-for-11; 0-for-4 in scoring position) and did not allow a 2-out hit (0-for-7). The relievers followed suit, as Notre Dame ultimately held the hosts hitless with runners on base (0-for-13), in scoring position (0-for-7) and with 2-outs (0-for-10).
Notre Dame (29-21-1, 11-9-1/.548 BIG EAST) edged slightly ahead of Pittsburgh (27-19, 12-10/.546) in the BIG EAST standings, while Rutgers (11-10/.524) moved into 5th after its 5-2 win on Monday at Georgetown. Connecticut (10-10, .500) and West Virginia (10-12, .455) also maintain shots at claiming one of the four BIG EAST Tournament spots. The standings are based purely on winning pct. due to ties and games lost to rainouts (UConn's doubleheader vs. St. John's and one of the ND-RU games).
The Irish may need to win all three games of the upcoming West Virginia series (Fri., May 20, 3:05 doubleheader; Sat., May 21, 12:05) to clinch a BIG EAST Tournament spot but they also could advance with fewer than three wins, pending the results of other series (2nd-place Boston College at UConn, 10th-place Seton Hall at Rutgers and Pitt at 9th-place Georgetown).
The 21 runs are the third-most by Notre Dame in the 11-year Paul Mainieri era, trailing only two games during the 2002 College World Series season (23-1 vs. Detroit and 25-1 vs. South Alabama in the NCAA Regional). It also marked the first time the Irish have reached 20 runs in a BIG EAST game (the '98 team had a 19-7 win over Georgetown) and first time they have won a BIG EAST game by more than 15 runs (the '03 team won 18-3 at St. John's).
Notre Dame's 18-hit attack and .409 team batting average in Monday's game produced three big innings - four in the 2nd, six in the 4th and five in the 5th - to help claim a 16-1 lead after just five innings. The Irish ultimately scored in six of the first seven innings for the 21-1 final margin.
Three Notre Dame hitters - junior rightfielder Craig Cooper (2), freshman second baseman Ross Brezovsky and junior catcher Cody Rizzo - combined on the four home runs while junior leftfielder Steve Andres and senior first baseman Steve Andres each hit multiple-RBI doubles.
The 1-5 hitters combined to bat 10-for-22 (.455) with 15 RBI, five extra-base hits, four walks and two times hit-by-pitch. The Irish also received strong production from the bottom of the order, as 8-hole hitter Greg Lopez and Brezovsky (9-hole) hit 7-for-9 with 4 RBI and a walk.
Brezovsky (4-for-4, RBI, 4 R, HR, BB) led six Irish batters with multiple hits, followed by Cooper (3-for-5, 5 RBI, 4 R, 2 HR) and Lopez (3-for-5, 3 RBI, R).
Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri - who had shifted Cooper into the leadoff spot three games earlier - made another timely shift by dropping Edwards into the cleanup spot, after the senior first baseman had hit in the 3-hole all season. Andres then was inserted into the #3 spot, his highest spot in the batting order all season (Andres and Edwards went on to combine for 7 RBI).
Former Notre Dame pitcher Chris Niesel tossed a 1-hitter/near-no-hitter vs. West Virginia on May 3, 2003, and since that game the Irish staffs have totaled four 2-hit games (with no 1-hitters or no-hitters). Samardzija now has been a part of three of those 2-hitters, with the others coming in 2004 vs. Penn State in Round Rock, Texas (4-2; 4 IP, BB to save game for starter Derik Olvey) and Central Florida (4-0; 7 IP, 2 H, 2 BB). The other 2-hitter since Niesel's 1-hitter was vs. Butler late in the '03 season (4-1, 7-inning game; Peter Ogilvie 6 IP, R, 2H, 3 B, 6 Ks; Ryan Doherty retired final three batters).
The Irish are in the midst of playing eight games in seven days, due to Saturday's rainout and the upcoming Friday-Saturday series format.
Cooper opened the game by working to a 3-1 count vs. junior righthander Shaun Butler (3-5) before pulling his sixth home run of the season down the leftfield line. It marked the 49th 1st-inning run scored by the Irish in 51 games this season. Pittsburgh responded by manufacturing a run without a hit but the Panthers would not cross home plate the rest of the day.
The Irish came right back to score four runs in the top of the 2nd, all with two outs. Brezovsky fell behind in the count (1-2) and fouled off the next three pitches before driving his second home run of the season over the fence in right-center. Cooper then ripped a single off the third baseman's glove, Brett Lilley chopped a 1-2 pitch through the right side and Andres walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Butler then fell behind Edwards and one of the top RBI men in Notre Dame history made him pay, driving the right-center gap for an opposite-field, bases-clearing double and the 5-1 lead.
Pittsburgh had a chance to get back in the game in the 3rd, with a runner on third base and one out. But Samardzija induced a shallow popup from dangerous hitter Jim Negrych and added another flyout to center field to end the inning.
Notre Dame erupted for six runs in the 4th vs. senior RHP Jeff Barnyak to suddenly claim an 11-1 lead, already nearly doubling its run production (6) from Sunday's doubleheader. Brezovsky started the big inning with a full-count walk and Lilley was hit with a one-out pitch. The lefthanded-hitting Andres then punished a first-pitch offering from Barnyak, sending his two-run double into the right-center gap.
The rest of the big top of the 4th all came two outs. Rizzo was hit by a 1-2 pitch and moved up on a pair of wild pitches before Tony Langford pinched a two-run single over the first baseman's head. An error extended the rally and Lopez made it hurt by placing the next into left-center for a pair of unearned runs.
The Irish came right back to score five runs in the 5th. The game's third big inning included a sacrifice fly to deep center field (off the bat of Andres), an Edwards RBI single through the left side and Rizzo's three-run blast over the leftfield fence (on an 0-1 pitch from senior LHP Adam Luckette) for his second home run of the series. Brezovsky and Lilley also singled in the inning while Cooper coaxed a full-count walk.
The three-run top of the 6th featured singles by Lopez and Brezovsky before Cooper launched a 1-1 pitch from Luckette over the leftfield fence. Notre Dame then capped the day's scoring in the 7th, thanks to Rizzo's leadoff walk, a pair of wild pitches, a walk by Nettey, Rizzo's RBI single through the left side and Cooper's run-scoring groundball.
SERIES STATS - ND hit .333 in the series with a 4.70 staff ERA (.244 opp. batting avg., 19 Ks, 12 BB, 21 H in 23 IP) and just a pair of errors ... Rizzo reached base nine times and had an eye-popping 2.125 OPS (combined .750 on-base and 1.375 slugging pct.; 5-for-8, BB, 3 HBP, 2 HR) ... other top hitters in the series included the 8 and 9-hole batters - Lopez (5-for-9, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, HBP) and Brezovsky (5-for-10, 4 R, HR, RBI, BB, 4 Ks) - and leadoff man Cooper (5-for-12, 4 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 2 Ks).
UPDATED TEAM NOTES - Cooper was the only ND batter who struck out in Monday's game, with a +7 "Red Ratio (6 BB + 2 HBP - 1 K) after the Irish had a -1 ratio in Sunday's doubleheader ... ND's HBP total grew to 111, still 7th in Div. I history (three behind Long Beach State's '00 total) ... the Irish are on pace for 122 HBPs in the regular season, which would rank 3rd (Nevada's 1997 team hold the record, with 125) ... the ND staff has held the opposition to .250 hitting in the eight post-finals games (4.18 ERA, 41 K, 28 BB, 60 H in 66.2) while the Irish defensive has totaled just 5 Es in those 8 GP (.983 fielding pct.) ... Monday marked ND's 8th game of the season in which multiple players hit HRs (first with 3-plus HR hitters) ... the Irish now are 10-18 in all road games this season, 19-3-1 at home ... ND is 23-2 when leading at the end of the 6th inning, 15-1 when holding the opponent to 0-1 runs, 17-3-1 when outhitting the opponent, 21-8 when scoring the game's first run, 16-8-1 when scoring a 1st-inning run, 23-11 when making 0-1 errors and 7-3 when hitting multiple HRs ... ND's final road game of the 2004 regular season featured a similar offensive explosion (also in a Monday game), as the Irish had 10 hits and 10 runs in the 1st inning that day en route to a 16-8 win at UConn.
UPDATED PLAYER NOTES - During the past four games as the Irish leadoff hitter, Cooper is batting .438 (7-fo-16, 7 RBI, 4 R, .938 slugging, 2 HR, 2 2B, 2 BB, 3 Ks, SAC) ... Edwards' 4-RBI day moved his career total to 188 in 183 games (63 for the season), still 6th on the ND career RBI chart but one behind '99 grad. Jeff Wagner ... Rizzo's HBP was the 67th of his career, still 5th in the NCAA record book but one behind former Wisconsin-Milwaukee player Clay Schwartz ('97) ... Lilley was HBP for the team-leading 23rd time this season (Rizzo has 18), five shy of Rizzo's team record (28, in '03) ... Lilley has totaled 54 free passes (also 31 walks) this season to go along with his 63 hits ... Dury's two shutout innings dropped his team-best ERA to 1.83 (he has 9 shutout innings in his past 6 appearances, with 3 H, 3 BB, 7 Ks) ... Lilley's 41 error-free games this season include 18 since making the switch to 3B (in 23 games) ... Brezovsky jumped to 6th on the team batting charts with a .286 season avg. ... Andres now has three more extra-base hits (4 HR-3B-5 2B) than singles (7) this season ... Brezovsky has hits in four of the past five games (8-for-15, 8 R) ... Cooper (8-for-18/.444, 8 RBI, 4 R) and Lopez (8-for-16, 3 RBI, 2 R) both are riding 5-game hit streaks ... top hitters since finals ended (8 GP) include three who are batting .333 - Lopez (9-for-27, 4 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 3 Ks, 3 E), Cooper (9-for-27, 8 RBI, 6 R, 2 HR, 2 2B, 5 BB, 5 Ks, 3 SAC, SB) and Brezovsky (8-for-24, RBI, R, HR, 3 BB, HBP, 9 Ks, 2 SAC, E) - plus Rizzo's .320 (8-for-25, 5 RBI, 6 R, 2 HR, BB, 5 HBP, 2 Ks, 3 SB) ... the Irish had 10 baserunners reach with 2-strike counts in Monday's game (3 H, 5 BB, 2 HBP), including three from Brezovsky (2 H, BB) and two each from Lilley (BB, HBP) and Rizzo (BB, HBP), plus full-count walks by Edwards, Cooper and Nettey ... top ND hitters on the road this season are Cooper (.319, 30-for-94, 21 RBI, 20 R, 4 HR, 6 2B, 15 BB, 6 SB) and Brezovsky (.310, 26-for-84, 10 RBI, 13 R, 1-2-4, 2 BB) ... Brezovsky broke out of an earlier slump by batting 4-for-5 vs. Cleveland State (5 RBI, 2 R, HB, BB) in the game prior to finals ... starting with that game vs. the Vikings, Brezovsky is batting .429 in the past 9 GP (12-for-28, 10 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 714 SL, 4 BB, HBP, 9 Ks, 515 ob, 1 E; team is hitting just .282 in those 9 GP).
Notre Dame 1-4-0 6-5-3 2-0-0 - 21 18 1
Pittsburgh 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 - 1 2 1
Jeff Samardzija (W, 6-1), Mike Dury (7), Joey Williamson (9) and Cody Rizzo, Sean Gaston (8).
Shaun Butler (L, 3-5), Jeff Barnyak (3), Adam Luckette (6), Joe Lloyd (8), Justin Cicatello (9) and Jeff Stevens, Mike Zambriczki (8).
Home Runs: Craig Cooper (leadoff in 1st; 6th of season); Ross Brezovsky (solo in 2nd; 2nd of season); Cody Rizzo (2 on in 5th; 4th of season); Cooper (2 on in 6th; 7th of season, 17th of career).
Doubles: Steve Andres (ND), Matt Edwards (ND).