May 28, 2005
BRIDGEWATER, N.J. - Matt Edwards took home tournament MVP honors but there were plenty of heroes up and down the lineup in Saturday's 11-4 win over Pittsburgh that extended Notre Dame's unprecedented run to four straight BIG EAST tournament titles. The Irish earned the league's automatic berth to the NCAAs and now await Monday morning's announcement (10:30 a.m. EST/in South Bend, live on ESPN) of the 64-team NCAA field and regional pairings (host sites were announced Sunday, May 29; see list below).
(Note: this recap now includes update team notes and gameday photos from the championship game.)
Notre Dame (36-22-1) - which is making its seventh straight trip to the NCAAs and will enter next week's action with wins in eight of its past nine games - saw all nine starters rap out hits for the second time in the team's three games at Commerce Bank Ballpark. Half of the team's 14 hits went for extra bases, including two-run blasts by Edwards and Cody Rizzo, a pair of doubles (one that plated two runs) off the bat of extra-base specialist Steve Andres, an RBI double from Edwards and Sean Gaston's triple that led to another run. Craig Cooper extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games (3-for-5, 3 runs) from the leadoff spot while Brett Lilley had a key two-run single in the 4th that helped Notre Dame answer Pittsburgh's only runs of the game.
A pair of sophomores - righthander Dan Kapala (6-3) and lefthander Mike Dury - combined in limiting Pittsburgh to six hits, four walks and 12 total baserunners (only seven of which reached scoring position). Kapala allowed four runs (three earned) in the 3rd but his teammates came right back to score four in the top of the 4th for a 10-4 cushion. Kapala ultimately yielded five hits and three walks in 5.2 innings, with five strikeouts in his 102-pitch outing to help deliver Notre Dame's sixth straight win.
Dury entered the game after a two-hour rain delay halted play in the bottom of the 6th, going on to pick up his first save of the season after 3.1 innings of shutout ball (H, BB, 11 batters faced).
Pittsburgh (33-22) shifted its starting pitcher, going with fifth-year righthander Don Rhoten, but the Irish chased him after just two-plus innings (6 R, 5 H, K) after putting three runs on the board in both the 1st and 3rd. Fellow senior righthanders Eli Friedman and Jeff Barnyack closed out the game for the Panthers.
Notre Dame's clutch hitting throughout the lineup included .539 batting by the Irish with runners in scoring position (7-for-13) and 6-for-15 (.400) with 2-outs. All three of Edwards' RBI came with 2-outs, as did Rizzo's home run and an RBI single from Gaston.
Kapala allowed just two leadoff batters to reach and limiting Pitt to just a single hit with 2-outs (1-for-6). Dury then allowed no cracks over the final 3.1 innings, holding the Panthers to 0-for-5 batting with runners on base and 0-for-4 with 2 outs - while lowering his team-best season ERA to 1.50.
Pittsburgh boasts one of the top hitting tandems in the BIG EAST - with leadoff man Ben Copeland and 3-hole hitter Jim Negrych - but Kapala and Dury held them to a 1-for-7 combined day (BB, HBP, RBI, 2 R, 3 Ks).
Notre Dame's 8-1 streak suddenly leaves the Irish just four wins shy of extending its streak of 40-win seasons (16) that stretches back to 1988.
Cooper opened the game by sending a 1-0 pitch into left-center but remained at first base until Edwards dropped a 1-1 pitch into right-center for an opposite-field, RBI double (his 20th double of the season and 50th of his career, good for 10th in the ND record book). Rizzo then added another two-out hit, parking a 1-0 pitch over the leftfield fence for his sixth home run of the season and 14th of his career. Rizzo has launched four home runs in the span of the past 10 games, with three of those blasts coming vs. Pittsburgh.
Negrych reached moments later when Kapala plunked him with a first-pitch offering but Peter Parise went down swinging. Alex Nettey then reached on a HBP in the top of the 2nd but Rhoten rolled up a double-play ball and another groundout to maintain the 3-0 deficit. Another HBP came in the bottom of the inning, allowing Jeff Stevens to reach, and David Cline reached on walk - but Kapala struck out Dan Williams to strand the runners.
Cooper hit another leadoff single to left field in the 3rd and Rhoten hit Lilley with a 1-2 pitch before Andres pulled an 0-1 offering into the right-center gap for the two-run double. Friedman was summoned from the bullpen and recorded two strikeouts but Gaston sent a 2-0 pitch up the middle for the 6-0 lead.
Copeland battled Kapala to start the bottom of the 3rd before going the other way for his ninth home run of the season, with the ball avoiding Cooper's jump near the leftfield foulpole. Negrych then walked and Parise added a single, moving up on an outfield throwing error. Conley then flared a 1-2 pitch into shallow center field (scoring Negrych) and moved up on a stolen base. Kapala caught Edgard Sucre swinging at a 2-2 changeup but Stevens sent a two-run single down the leftfield line for a 6-4 game.
The defining moment came moments later, as the Irish answered with four runs of their own in the top of the 4th. Ross Brezovsky started things from the 9-hole with an opposite-field double into left field (1-1 pitch) and Cooper then singled to center and moved up on the throw. Lilley went with the next pitch for an opposite-field single into left-center that chased home both runners (he also took an extra base on the throw). Two batters later, Edwards delivered another two-out hit by turning on a 1-2 pitch and sending it over the leftfield fence for his 14th home run and 34th of his career (tied for 6th in the ND record book).
Kapala carried that momentum back to the mound, setting down the Panthers in order during the next two innings (groundout-K-foulout in the 4th; flyout-foulout-grounout in the 5th) while needing just 10 pitches in each inning. Greg Lopez had a two-out single in the top of the 5th but Friedman rolled up a groundout to keep the deficit at four runs. Andres then reached on a two-out HBP in the 6th but Edwards lined out the left field.
Sucre's leadoff single (to left) and a full-count walk by Stevens put the tying run on deck and both runners were in scoring position after a wild pitch. Cline then sent a roller past the left side of the mound but the third baseman Lilley made a great play, freezing the runner before firing to first base for the forceout. Sucre gambled and broke for home plate, with Edwards quickly firing the ball to Gaston. The throw was wide to the first-base side and Gaston had to catch the ball with his back to the plate before whipping around for the tag. Sucre was called out on the unusual double-play and Pitt coach Joe Jordano was ejected moments later after arguing the call.
The tarp crew took center stages moments later and the two-hour rain delay fittingly doused the heated atmosphere. When play resumed, Dury induced a groundout to the shortstop Lopez to keep the score at 10-4.
Barnyack took over on the hill for Pittsburgh and Gaston greeted him with a one-out, opposite-field triple, sending the first pitch he saw into the left-center gap. Alex Nettey then brought him home with a groundball to the third baseman, beating out the throw for an infield single.
With an 11-4 lead on the board, Dury then set down the top of the order on a groundout, flyout and strikeout of the hot-hitting Negrych. Andres followed with a two-out double in the 8th but was stranded while Parise was erased after his leadoff single in the bottom of the frame, as Dury forced Conley into a 4-6-3 double play. Stevens drew a leadoff walk in the 9th but Dury slammed the door with a flyout, strikeout and groundout.
**See updated team notes below linescore. **
Notre Dame (36-22-1) 3-0-3 4-0-0 1-0-0 - 11 14 1
Home Runs: Cody Rizzo, ND (1 on in 1st; 6th of season, 14th of career); Ben Copeland, Pitt (solo in 3rd; 9th of season); Matt Edwards, ND (1 on in 4th; 14th of season, 34th of career).
UPDATED NOTRE DAME BASEBALL NOTES (May 29, 2005)
NCAA REGIONAL SITES - The following 16 teams have been named as the 16 host sites for the 2005 NCAA Baseball Championship: ACC teams Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami; SEC teams Florida, LSU, Mississippi and Tennessee; Big-12 teams Baylor, Nebraska and Texas; Pac-10 teams Arizona State and Oregon State; Big West teams Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State; and Tulane from Conference USA ... the sites include three in Florida and two each in California and Texas ... ND's three previous NCAA Regionals on the road during the Paul Mainieri era were at Alabama ('96), Mississippi State ('00) and Cal State Fullerton ('03).
EDWARDS JOINS ELITE 80 HIT-40 WALK CLUB - Senior 1B Matt Edwards (80 H, 43 BB) collected five hits at the BIG EAST Tournament to become the third ND player ever to reach 80 hits and 40 walks in the same season ... SS Pat Pesavento did it twice (87 H, 46 BB in '88; 92 H, 61 B in '89) while 3B Matt Macri had 87 H, 40 BB in '04.
BULLPEN SHUTS THE DOOR AT BET - Four ND relievers combined for an impressive three-game stretch at the BIG EAST Tournament, with a 2.08 bullpen ERA, a relief win and a pair of saves to help deliver the team title ... the bullpen posted a 3.3 K-to-walk ratio at the BET (10 Ks/3 BB) while holding the opponents to five hits and a .161 batting avg. in 8.2 IP (a double by BC's Dave Preziosi was the only extra-base hit vs. the ND bullpen in Bridgewater) ... sophomore RHP Jeff Manship picked up his first save of the season in the 6-5 win over Boston College (3 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks) ... freshman RHP Tony Langford then had a key shutout inning vs. Pittsburgh in the 4-2 winners-bracket game (H, K, 4 BF) and junior RHP Ryan Doherty closed things out by striking out three of the four batters he faced for his 6th save of the season and 19th of his career (1.1 IP) ... sophomore LHP Mike Dury had faced one batter in that game and then saved the 11-4 title game vs. Pitt (3.1 IP, H, B, 2 Ks, 11 BF) ... the relievers also allowed just 1-of-6 inherited baserunners to score in the three BET games.
HBP HIGHWAY ROLLS ON - Three ND players (Brett Lilley, Alex Nettey and Steve Andres) were hit by pitches in the BIG EAST title game, pushing ND's season HBP total to 122 ... that leaves the Irish just three shy of the NCAA record for HBPs in a season (125, by Nevada in '97) while the 1998 Long Beach State team is the only other with more HBPs in a season (124) ... ND players have been HBP in 53 of 59 games this season, with the Irish collecting at least one HBP in 24 of the past 25 games ... the Irish are averaging 2.07 HBPs per game ... junior CF Cody Rizzo ranks 4th in NCAA history with 69 HBPs, including 20 this season (4th in the ND record book, behind his 28 in '03, 21 in '04 and freshman 3B Brett Lilley's current 25) ... Lilley now ranks 13th on the NCAA list for HBP in a season, behind Andrew Slater (33; Richmond, '97), Steve Dembowski (32; Fairleigh Dickinson, '79), David Bacani (30; Cal State Fullerton, '98), Chris Nelson (29; Southern Utah, '02), Jonah Martin (29; ASU, '00), Corky Miller (29; Nevada, '98), Rizzo's 28 in '03, Daniel Bruce (28; Nebraska, '02), Ryan Earey (28; UNC '00), Eric Nielsen (27; UNLV, '04) and Gabe Sommariba (27; Florida Atlantic, '01 and '02) ... five of the 13 highest HBP totals in ND history belong to 2005 players: Lilley (25), Rizzo (20), junior CF Alex Nettey (16, 5th), junior SS Greg Lopez (14, 8th) and junior OF Craig Cooper (14).
LONG-BALL LONGING - Matt Edwards ended his recent home run drought in the BIG EAST title game vs. Pittsburgh, stroking a 2-run shot in the 4th (he had just 1 HR in the previous 23 games and just 2 HRs in the second half of the season, after blasting 11 HRs in the first 27 games of '05) ... his 14 HR this season rank 9th in the ND record book and equal the most by an ND player since Brant Ust hit 17 in '99 ... Edwards now has 34 career HRs with the Irish, tying Ryan Topham ('94-'96) for 6th in the ND record book behind Jeff Wagner (49, '96-'99), Ust (47, '97-'99), Frank Jacobs (37, '89-'91), Mike Amrhein (37, '94-'97) and Alec Porzel (37, '98-'01).
AVOIDING 0-AND-2 - Notre Dame will enter the NCAAs looking to maintain the program's distinction of never going 0-2 at a postseason tournament in the 11-year Paul Mainieri era ... that's a streak of 20 postseason events, including 11 conference tournaments, seven NCAA Regionals, the 2002 Super Regional at Florida State and the '02 College World Series ... the Irish also have gone 0-2 just four times in 28 regular-season tournaments during the Mainieri era.
BET STAT LEADERS - ND hit .310 at the 2005 BIG EAST Tournament (3 HR, 6 2B, 2 BB, 4 HBP, 24 Ks, 3 SB), outscoring the opposition 21-11 with a 3.00 staff ERA (24 Ks, 11 BB, 23 H/.235 opp. avg. in 27 IP) and a .983 fielding pct. (2 Es, including an errant OF throw) ... ND previous road games in the 2005 season had included just a .279 team batting avg., a 5.44 staff ERA and a .310 opp. batting avg. ... top hitters at the '05 BET included: Steve Andres (4-for-9, 4 RBI, HR, 2 2B, 2 R, HBP, 2 Ks), Greg Lopez (4-for-10, K, no Es at SS on 11 chances), Matt Edwards (5-for-13, 4 RBI, HR, 2 2B, 5 R, BB, 3 Ks, SB, E) and Craig Cooper (5-for-13, RBI, 5 R, BB, K).
FOUR-PEAT NO EASY FEAT - Notre Dame continues to go into uncharted waters in the 21-year history of the BIG EAST Baseball Championship, after claiming its fourth straight title (no previous BIG EAST team had won even three straight) ... the 30 current Div. I baseball conferences feature just two other teams - Rice (9 straight Western Athletic titles) and Oral Roberts (8 straight Mid-Continent titles) - that are riding a longer conference title streak than ND's current 4-year run ... those streaks refer to the official conference champion (some leagues do not sponsor a tournament and award the NCAA bid to the regular-season champ) ... Rice's titles are regular-season, as the WAC does not hold a tournament ... ND also owns the record for consecutive wins in BIG EAST tournament play (7).
BRIDGEWATER BESTS - Two ND veterans own a .400 career batting avg. in BIG EAST tournament play: senior 1B Matt Edwards (16-for-40, 12 RBI, 13 R, 2 HR, 3 2B, 6 BB, HBP, 7 Ks, 2 Es, SB) and junior SS Greg Lopez (10-for-25, RBI, 2 E, 2 HBP, 3 Ks) ... junior LF/DH Steve Andres now is a .345 career hitter at the BET (10-for-29, 10 RBI, 7 R, HR, 3B, 5 2B, 5 BB, 2 HBP, 8 Ks, E), well above his overall .275 career batting avg. (Lopez owns a .288 career avg. while Edwards is hitting at a .349 career clip).
THE TURNING POINT - The midseason series vs. Boston College remains a key turning point for the ND season in many respects, namely in the won-loss record ... ND was 14-14 and 3-4 in BIG EAST play after losing the first game of that series but has gone 22-8-1 in the second half of the season (14-5-1 vs. BE teams) ... that 14-14 start had included 18 ND errors at third base but the Irish moved freshman Brett Lilley from 2B to 3B and he has made just 7 Es in 31 games at the hot corner (26 error-free) ... the BC series also marked the key decision of moving sophomore RHP Dan Kapala into the starting rotation ... since the key shifts in the BC series, the Irish have posted a .971 fielding pct. (35 Es in 31 GP) while posting a 3.35 staff ERA (.261 opp. avg., 174 Ks, 84 BB, 273 H in 276.2 IP) and just 2.7 walks per 9 IP ... ND's 22-8-1 record during the second half includes: a loss to top-20 team USC, three losses at BIG EAST regular-season champ St. John's, two losses at 4th-place finisher Pittsburgh, a loss to NCAA hopeful Michigan, and a loss to a Central Michigan team that nearly won the MAC tournament
LUCKY NUMBERS - ND enters the NCAAs with a 19-8-1 record when scoring in the 1st inning, 24-8 when scoring the game's first run, 30-2 when leading at the end of the 6th inning, 23-3-1 when outhitting the opponent and 27-4 when holding the opponent to 0-4 runs ... ND was just 11-9 during the regular-season in games decided by 1-2 runs before the 6-5 win over BC and the 4-2 game vs. Pitt at the BIG EAST tournament ...
ROADTRIPPERS - Notre Dame owned just a 9-18 record in 2005 road games (including at neutral sites) before the 21-1 win at Pittsburgh that sparked a current four-game winning streak outside of the home confines (including 3-0 at the BIG EAST Tournament).
FIRST-INNING FOCUS - ND's quick start in the BIG EAST title game (3-0 in the 1st) gives the Irish 55 runs in the 1st inning this season ... the Irish have scored a 1st-inning run in 28 games this season, including 13 games with multiple runs in the 1st.
MORE IN FOUR - Notre Dame's largest scoring margin in 2005 has come in the 4th inning (+37, 67-30), with ND owning just a +53 edge in all other innings combined.
MISTER MAY - Here are the ND batting leaders during the month of May (the first game in May also corresponded with the end of final exams (16 GP): Craig Cooper (.414, 24-for-58, 17 RBI, 15 R, 2 HR, 5 2B, 7 BB, HBP, 7 Ks, 3 SAC, 2 SB, E), Matt Edwards (.367, 18-for-49, 12 RBI, 16 R, 2 HR, 5 2B, 20 BB, 13 Ks, 3 SB, 3 Es) and Cody Rizzo (.309, 17-for-55, 9 RBI, 12 R, 4 HR, 3 2B, 2 BB, 7 HBP, 9 Ks, 6 SB, 2 Es).
ON A ROLL - ND is batting .342 with a 73-32 scoring edge during the current 8-1 streak (9 HR, 3B, 21 2B, 24 BB, 13 HBP, 46 Ks, 7 SB), plus a .964 fielding pct. (12 Es) and a 2.62 staff ERA (57 Ks, 24 BB, 68 H in 79 IP) ... top hitters in the 9-game hot streak include seven who are batting above .300: Craig Cooper (.500, 18-for-36, 14 RBI, 13 R, 2 HR, 3 2B, 3 BB, HBP, 3 Ks, SB, E), Matt Edwards (.467, 14-for-30, 9 RBI, 10 R, HR, 4 2B, 8 BB, 5 Ks, 2 SB, 3 Es), Cody Rizzo (.333, 11-for-33, 7 RBI, 9 R, 3 HR, 3 2B, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 7 Ks, 3 SB, 2 Es), Sean Gaston (.333, 6-for-18, 4 RBI, 2 R, 3B, 2B, K, SAC), Ross Brezovsky (.313, 10-for-32, 4 RBI, 8 R, HR, 2B, 2 BB, 5 Ks, E), Tony Langford (.310, 9-for-29, 7 RBI, 4 R, HR, BB, 3 Ks), Steve Andres (.304, 7-for-23, 8 RBI, 5 R, HR, 3 2B, BB, HBP, 3 Ks).
HITS ON THE ROAD - Four ND players have posted solid batting averages away from home this season: Craig Cooper (.333, 37-for-111, 23 RBI, 26 R, 4 HR, 8 2B, 16 BB, 4 HBP, 15 Ks, 6 SB, E), Matt Edwards (.322, 38-for-118, 33 RBI, 33 R, 7 HR, 10 2B, 20 BB, 4 HBP, 19 Ks, 3 SB, 7 Es), Ross Brezovsky (.299, 29-for-97, 11 RBI, 17 R, HR, 2 3B, 5 2B, 3 BB, 4 HBP, 24 Ks, 2 SAC, SB, 9 Es) and Tony Langford (.298, 17-for-57, 15 RBI, 5 R, 2 HR, 2 2B, BB, 8 Ks).
COOPER HIT STREAK REACHES 13 - Junior OF Craig Cooper is batting .460 (23-for-50) with 17 RBI (13 R, 5 2B, 2 HR, 4 BB, HBP, 5 Ks, SAC, SB) during his career-best 13-game hitting streak, the second-longest by an Irish player in 2005 behind a 15-game midseason streak from Alex Nettey ... Cooper posted his 16th multi-hit game of the season (and 7th with 3-plus hits) in the BIG EAST title game vs. Pitt.