June 3, 2006
Freshman sensation Kyle Weiland logged a season-high 7.0-plus innings out of the bullpen but ended up the hard-luck loser in Friday's opening-round action at the NCAA Lexington Regional, as Ben Lasater's double brought home the winning run to give the regional's second-seeded team and No. 23-ranked College of Charleston a 5-4, 16-inning win over third seed and 15th-ranked Notre Dame at a soggy Hagan Stadium. It matched the second-longest game in NCAA Tournament history.
Notre Dame (45-16-1) - which had 27 total baserunners in the excruciating loss - next faces the host team Kentucky in an elimination game, to be played on Saturday, June 3, at 2:00 p.m. EDT. That game will be televised locally by Big Blue Sports but there will be no national coverage or satellite feed available for the remainder of the regional. Kentucky lost Friday night's game, 3-1, versus another Indiana team (Ball State), with the Cardinals now set to face Charleston (44-15) in Saturday's 7:00 winners-bracket game.
The Irish are expected to send senior lefthander Tom Thornton (3.68 ERA, 7-2, 57 Ks, 5 BB in 78.1 IP) to the mound while the Wildcats will counter with sophomore righthander Greg Dombrowski (2.82, 9-2, 50 Ks, 9 BB, 92.2 IP). Thornton's 52 career starts rank third in Notre Dame history and include elimination-game postseason victories over Kent State ('04 NCAAs) and St. John's (at last week's BIG EAST Tournament).
A win over the Wildcats would send Notre Dame on to another elimination game on Sunday (2:00), versus the loser of the BSU-CC game. The winner of that game then must beat the regional's undefeated team (Saturday night's winner) twice, on Sunday night and again on Monday (both of those games would be at 7:00).
Friday's 16-inning marathon lasted 4:18 and was the longest NCAA Tournament game (in terms of innings) since 1998, when South Alabama beat Clemson 2-1 in 16 innings. Clemson also was involved in the longest tournament game, a 3-2, 19-inning victory over Florida in 1988. The game matches the second-longest of the 12-year Paul Mainieri era at Notre Dame, trailing only a 19-inning game at Rutgers on May 11, 2003 (RU won that game, 5-3). The Irish also lost a 16-inning game to Michigan in Mainieri's first season (7-6; on May 2, 1995, in Grand Rapids).
The Irish finished with a 15-11 edge in hits, with senior shortstop Greg Lopez (3-for-6, BB) among six ND players with multiple hits. The Notre Dame offense had entered the day averaging just 4.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings this season but a high K total (13; 7.3 per 9 IP) proved costly in Friday's tight game.
Notre Dame's 16 losses this season have come by a total of just 52 runs (avg. margin of 3.3 runs per loss), with 10 of the losses coming by one (6) or two (4) runs and three of the defeats extending to extra-innings.
The Irish jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Friday's early action before seeing the Cougars push across a run on a balk call that was hotly-contested by Mainieri. Alex Garabedian's 6th-inning home run later forged the 4-4 tie and the pitching staffs then combined to throw 19 straight zeroes up on the scoreboard before the decisive rally in the bottom of the 16th.
Junior righthander Jeff Samardzija and Weiland both turned in heroic efforts on the mound, limiting Charleston to 11 total hits (plus three walks and a hit batter) in the 15-plus innings. The Irish pitchers allowed seven leadoff batters to reach but then delivered in nearly every clutch situation, holding the Cougars to 1-for-13 batting with runners in scoring position and 1-for-16 with 2-outs.
Samardzija - making his 10th game-1 start of the season - yielded the four runs on seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out three with 67 strikes among his 107 pitchers. Charleston put three leadoff runners on base versus the two-sport standout but Samardzija then limited them to 3-for-12 batting with runners on and 1-for-8 with 2-outs. All three of Samardzija's career starts in the NCAAs now have resulted in no-decisions.
Weiland entered the NCAAs ranked second nationally in saves (16) but ended up logging 103 pitches (60 strikes) in a game that was deadlocked for nine-plus innings. The freshman righthander earlier had closed the series finale at Connecticut with 5.0 full innings (that game ended in a tie, after 13 innings) but went two innings longer in the NCAA opener, with his 21 outs including seven via strikeouts and nine on groundballs. Weiland did allow four leadoff batters to reach but limited the Cougars to 1-for-9 batting with runners on base and did not surrender a 2-out hit all day (0-for-8).
The teams combined to put 12 leadoff batters on base but the pitchers won most of the battles with runners on base. All told, the Irish and Cougars combined to bat just .255 with runners on (12-for-47), .118 with men in scoring position (4-for-34) and .088 with 2-outs (3-for-34). The game's final tally included 28 runners left on base, 17 by the Irish.
Weiland lowered his season ERA to 2.37 while dropping his opponent batting average to .224, which would rank third-best by an Irish freshman in the past 16 seasons (when stat was first officially kept)- trailing only the .198 turned in by Aaron Heilman in 1998 (when he also led the nation with a 1.61 ERA) and the .201 by Larry Mohs in '94. Weiland also now owns nearly a 2.5-to-1 K-to-walk ratio (48/20) and has logged 11 more innings pitched (49.1) than hits allowed (39).
Here's a quick rundown of each team's chances with runners in scoring position (some updated player and team notes also are included below, as are quotes from both teams):
ND 1st - Senior 1B Craig Cooper went the other way on a 1-1 pitch from sophomore RHP Graham Godfrey (6 IP, 4 R, 10 H, 5 Ks) for his 94th hit of the season, on a single that fell in front of the rightfielder ... Cooper now has reached two-thirds of the time (35-of-53) when leading off the game for the ND offense ... sophomore 3B Brett Lilley sent the next pitch into left field for his own opposite-field hit and an RBI double, plating the nation's leading run scorer (Cooper now has scored 78 runs in '06) ... two batters later, senior LF Steve Andres came to the plate with 1-out and launched the first pitch into right field ... Hagan Stadium is just 310-feet down the RF line and includes the rare configuration of a rightfield scoreboard, with the shot from Andres clanging high off the scoreboard for an RBI double and the 2-0 lead (the blast would have been a home run in most college ballparks) ... Godfrey then got out of the inning with a strikeout and groundout.
ND 2nd - Senior CF Alex Nettey worked ahead in the count (2-1) before spanking a leadoff home run over the fence in left-center (his third HR of the season and fifth of his career) ... Lopez followed with a single to left-center and Godfrey plunked senior RF Cody Rizzo with a 1-0 pitch (Rizzo's 84th career HBP, still 2nd in NCAA history and now eight shy of the record) - but Godfrey rolled up two more groundouts (the first a double-play ball) to keep the deficit at 3-0.
CC 2nd - Garabedian beat out an infield single to the right side and advanced on a similar hit off the bat of Graham Maiden before moving to third on Lasater's sac. bunt and scoring on the 2-out balk call (after Samardzija had induced a 5-3 groundout).
ND 3rd - The Irish got the run back but could have enjoyed a big inning after loading the bases on a leadoff single through the right side by freshman 2B Jeremy Barnes, an infield single going the other way (left side) from Andres and sophomore DH Ross Brezovsky legging out a nicely-placed bunt on the third-base side ... Godfrey again served up the groundball he needed, as Sean Gaston brought home ND's fourth run but produced 2-outs on the 4-6-3 double play (Nettey's 6-3 groundout then left Andres stranded at third).
CC 3rd - A leadoff walk by Clay McCord and rare fielding error by Lopez (with 1-out) preceded a 5-3 double play off the bat of Jess Easterling.
ND 4th - Rizzo singled to right-center with 1-out and moved up on Cooper's groundout but Godfrey notched the rally-ending strikeout.
ND 6th - An error on the shortstop Easterling and Nettey's single up the middle had the Irish in business with no outs but the Cougars forced out Nettey on an attempted sacrifice from Lopez, who ranks 2nd in ND history with 32 career sacrifice bunts (a flyout and groundout then ended the promising chance).
CC 6th - Larry Cobb's leadoff single to right and Easterling's hit into right-center set the table for the 5-hole hitter Garabedian, who sent the next pitch over the fence in left-center for his sixth home run of the season and a 4-4 game.
ND 7th - With senior LHP Quinn Monsma now on the mound, a 2-out fielding error by the 1B Maiden allowed Andres to reach before Brezovsky singled to center, but a groundout kept the game tied.
ND 9th - The CF Cobb failed to haul in a 1-out shot off the bat of Lilley (who scooted to second on the two-base error), with the Cougars then bringing in junior RHP Josh McLaughlin (a 2005 summer teammate of Rizzo and his ND classmate Matt Bransfield, with the Alaska League's Mat-Su Miners) ... the threat fittingly ended with a pair of groundouts and the game headed to extra innings moments later.
CC 10th - McCord reached third after an infield single to the left side, Chris Campbell's sac. bunt and a groundout, but Weiland blew an 0-2 pitch by Easterling.
ND 11th - Rizzo coaxed a full-count walk with 1-out and moved up on the catcher's errant pickoff throw ... McLaughlin then issued a free pass to Cooper and Rizzo tried to swipe third on a ball in the dirt, but Garabedian's throw beat him to the bag.
CC 12th - McCord reached with 2-outs (as Lopez made a second error for just the third time this season) and advanced on a stolen base, but Weiland battled from behind in the count (2-0) to strike out Campbell on four straight breaking balls (full-count).
ND 13th - Lopez and Rizzo both placed 1-out singles up the middle, versus freshman LHP and CC's #4 starter, Jeff Beliveau (6-3; 5 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 KS) ... Cooper's flyout and Lilley's strikeout kept the game at 4-4.
CC 13th - Cobb had a leadoff single to left and moved up on Easterling's bunt ... Weiland then walked Garabedian intentionally before inducing a flyout from Maiden and Lasater's 4-3 groundout.
CC 14th -Weiland overcame hitting leadoff batter William Coker with a 1-2 pitch (plus the ensuing stole base) by forcing a pair of groundouts to Lopez, from Joey Friddle and McCord (moving the runner to third) before a grounder to Barnes sent the game on to the 15th.
ND 15th - Nettey drew a 1-out walk and Lopez singled through the left side but the lead runner was forced out on Rizzo's groundball to the shortstop ... Cooper's infield single (to the shortstop) loaded the bases but Beliveau served up Lilley's flyout to left.
CC 16th - The winning sequence started with Maiden's single through the left side (1-1 pitch) ... pinch-runner Oliver Marmol then entered the game and Weiland battled Lasater to a full-count before the double into the leftfield corner ended the game.
Game One Post-game Quotes
College of Charleston head coach John Pawlowski
Opening Statement - "What an unbelievable college baseball game. Both teams played their hearts out. It just seemed that both teams were working so hard, and we were very fortunate to find a way to win. Both staffs did an outstanding job and both teams had chances to win the game. I thought the pitching was outstanding and the guy to my right, Jeff Beliveau, came in as a freshman in a big situation and was just unflappable. He (Beliveau) did a great job in a big situation. I'm sure this was a very exciting game for the fans and certainly for the College of Charleston."
On tomorrow's game - "First thing is that we did spend a lot of energy in this game. As the game progressed and we got deeper into the game, guys were trying everything from changing seats to changing hats. We have to regroup and evaluate our arms to see were we are for tomorrow. Both teams played their hearts out and nobody deserved to lose this game. Come tomorrow at game time, these guys will be rejuvenated and ready to play."
#18 Ben Lasater, 3B - "I think everybody was trying to end it with one swing. There was a lot of pressure each time you came up to bat. We finally relaxed, put some good swings on the ball and got the game over with."
#14 Alex Garabedian, C - "I know I'm going to be tired, but as soon as the game starts, I'll be ready. I'm going to hit the ice tub tonight and hopefully I'll be ready for tomorrow. ... I can't really remember too much about (the home run) because of the length of the game. The pitcher made a mistake and left the pitch up and I made the hit."
#15 Jeff Beliveau, RP - "I kept telling myself to get ahead and not give them (Notre Dame) advantage counts. I just wanted the batters to put the ball in play and not give them any free bases. My hope was that our defense would be able to help me and they proved that they did."
Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri - "This is obviously a heartbreaking loss for us because I've never seen two kids compete on the mound like I witnessed today like Weiland and Samardzija. One of the gutsiest pitching performances I've ever seen. It's just a shame we couldn't get any runs. We started out great, and we just couldn't get a bit hit after that. Even in those first three innings, we had a chances to get more runs, but we had some missed opportunities and hit into a couple of double plays. We just had trouble putting the bat on the ball. Give credit to the College of Charleston, they played great and we just have to regroup now.
On the balk call - "He (the umpire) said he didn't come to a complete stop."
On Weiland's long relief appearance - "When we played at Connecticut, we had a 13-inning game that ended in a tie due to the treavel curfew. I think he pitched five innings in that game, so he's capable. He'll probably be in the starting rotation next year. He throws a lot of strikes. He was awesome. He was just awesome."
#45 Jeff Samardzija, RHP - "Thinking back on (the balk), it's tough to recall exactly what happened. I didn't come to a complete stop. It's one of those situations with runners on second and third, and I guess I balked. It's a tough call, but as a player in the field, you've got to overcome it. I think I ended u giving up that one run and got the next batter out. You just have to do a little damage control when that happens, but it's part of it. I take full fault for that - for not coming to a complete stop - because that gave up an easy run and that turned out to be the game-changing play of the game. It was definitely the fault of me, whether it was a good call or not."
#36 Steve Andres, LF - "Our pitchers went out and couldn't have done a better job. At the same time, we were pressing a little bit. We just didn't get the job done, bottom line."
COOPER, MANSHIP PICK UP ALL-AMERICA HONORS - Notre Dame's Craig Cooper and Jeff Manship (junior RHP) last week were named the respective BIG EAST player and pitcher of the year and each was named on Friday to the Collegiate Baseball magazine Louisville Slugger All-America team (Cooper was 2nd team, Manship 3rd team) ... Cooper also has been named an All-American by the College Baseball Foundation and is one the final-30 candidates for the Brooks Wallace player-of-the-year award ... Kentucky's Ryan Streiby was the 1st-team first baseman on the CB Louisville Slugger All-America team ... look for a complete release on Cooper and Manship's All-America season coming soon on und.com. IRISH CRACK 100,000 FANS - Friday's crowd of 2,338 means that more than 100,000 fans have seen Notre Dame play this season (100,996), including a record-setting 60,334 in 24 home dates (2,513 per home game, also an Eck Stadium record).
COOPER UPDATE - Craig Cooper's pair of hits give him 95 for the season, still 6th in ND history but now one back of the 1993 total posted by Eric Danapilis (Cooper's former teammate Steve Sollmann had 98 hits in 2003) ... Cooper's 78 runs still are 4th on that ND single-season list, now three shy of 2nd place (Pat Pesavento had 81 runs in 1988 and 88 in '89, with Dan Peltier scoring 81 in the `89 season as well) ... Cooper's season batting avg. dipped to .422 with the 2-for-7 game (still 6th in ND history and 2nd-best in the Mainieri era) ... his .518 season on-base pct. has slipped to 5th in ND history (still best since 1993) ... Cooper's 147 total bases this season are tied for 10th in ND history (Tim Hutson had 148 in '88, Brant Ust 150 in '99, Ryan Topham 151 in '95 and Mike Amrhein 152 in '97) ... Cooper's career batting avg. remains at .360 (10th in ND history) while his career hit total now stands at 263 (six behind Amrhein for 7th place) ... Cooper's 220 career games played still ranks 12th in ND history (one behind Steve Sollmann) while his 731 at-bats are 11th all-time and his 190 runs 9th on that ND career list (one behind Paul O'Toole) ... Cooper's 110 career walks move him into 10th on that ND list, passing Louisville native Jeff Wagner (who was in attendance at Friday's game, as was former standout closer and current Eastern Kentucky pitching coach John Corbin) ... Cooper has reached base in all but two of his 56 games played this season (hits in 50, runs in 48).
OTHER RECORD BOOK UPDATES - The ND pitchers extended their team-record strikeout total and now are just five shy of 500 Ks (495) ... Rizzo's HBP was ND's 100th of the season (still 3rd in Irish history), making ND the only Division I team ever to reach 100 HBPs in three seasons (also 130 in '05, 106 in '04) ... the team's 64 sacrifice bunts now are two shy of the ND record (66, in '02) ... the 2006 staff has logged 563 innings, 2nd in ND history behind the 2002 CWS team (584.1) ... the .248 opponent batting avg. is 2nd-best by an ND staff since 1992 (.244 in '01) ... the team fielding pct. remains at .973, three points ahead of that ND record (.970, in '03) ... Rizzo has played in all 62 games this season and 232 in his career (still 7th in ND history) while Lopez has played in 229 (8th), with 216 starts (10th) ... Andres drew his 99th career walk.
FUNGOS - The ND offense entered the NCAAs with a +74 plate-discipline ratio (BB+HBPs-Ks) but were -6 on Friday (6 BB, 1 HBP, 13 Ks) ... Charleston became the 286th all-time opponent in 114 seasons of Notre Dame baseball ... ND had been 23-1 when hitting a home run this season, prior to Friday's loss ... the Irish now are 37-6 when outhitting the opponent, 32-6 when collecting double-digit hits and 38-7-1 when holding the opponent to 0-5 runs .., the home run was just the 18th allowed by ND this season (the Irish bullpen has allowed just 3 HRs in 197 innings, with none in the past 20 games spanning 74 innings) ... the Irish now own a 66-35 scoring edge in the 1st-inning this season ... despite having lost each of the three-longest games in the Mainieri era, the Irish have won the next longest games on that list (both 15 innings, at ND's Eck Stadium), including a 2004 win over one of the other teams in the Lexington Regional (7-6 vs. Ball State, on April 27, 2004) ... Alec Porzel's game-ending home run gave the Irish a 5-3, 15-inning win over West Virginia on May 3, 1998 ... Samardzija has allowed just 11 earned runs from the 3rd-5th innings this season (2.54 ERA, well below his 4.33 overall mark).
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