March 5, 2005
ROUND ROCK, Texas – Justin Pouk’s three-run home run lifted Texas A&M into the lead and sparked a seven-run top of the 6th as the 15th-ranked Aggies defeated Notre Dame, 9-5, in Round Rock Classic action Saturday night at Dell Diamond.
Senior first baseman Matt Edwards hit 3-for-4 with a walk and drove in three of the Irish runs but it was enough for Notre Dame (4-4), which held early leads of 1-0 and 4-2 but ultimately hit into two doubles plays while stranding 10 other baserunners (including at least one in all but one inning and a bases-loaded chance in the 6th).
Junior lefthander Tom Thornton (1-1) took the loss, despite holding Texas A&M (11-4) to a pair of runs and four hits in the first five innings. Bouk then launched his go-ahead home run and Thornton gave up two more hits before leaving in the middle of the 6th, ultimately being responsible for seven runs on nine hits and one walk (with a pair of strikeouts).
The Irish chased junior starter Robert Ray in the 3rd but fellow righthander Kyle Nicholson (1-0) allowed just one run in 3.1 innings to pick up the win.
Notre Dame scored in the 1st inning for the third time in the past four games. Sophomore catcher Sean Gaston – who hit 2-for-4 from the 2-hole and now is batting .346 after an 0-for-9 start – went the other way for a single into left-center (0-2 count) and motored to third when Edwards drove a full-count pitch into the other gap for his own opposite-field hit. A rightside groundball off the bat of Steve Andres then plated Gaston for the early lead.
The Aggies answered with two runs in the top of the 2nd, with the big hit coming on John Infante’s hit-and-run double into the leftfield corner.
Freshman second baseman Brett Lilley – who has reached base on 11-of-14 leadoff plate appearances – opened the bottom of the 3rd by poking an opposite-field single into the left-center gap. Gaston then knocked the next pitch through the left side of the infield and Edwards left no doubt on the next pitch, driving a two-run double that bounced off the fence in right-center for a 3-2 Irish lead.
Notre Dame tacked on a run in the 5th, sparked by Lilley’s leadoff bunt. Gaston advanced the runner with his own bunt and Edwards smacked an 0-1 pitch up the middle for the 4-2 cushion.
Texas A&M’s big 6th inning included Pouk’s home run, and RBI triple from Cliff Pennington, two doubles, four singles, a walk and a hit batter that produced the 9-4 lead.
The Irish had a chance to answer in the bottom of the frame, after Ross Brezovsky’s one-out single down the rightfield line and Alex Netter’s two-out single into center. Righthander Clayton Turner then took the mound but he lost Lilley on a four-pitch walk before inducing a groundout to leave the bases loaded.
Notre Dame’s run in the 7th – after a Steve Andres single and Craig Cooper double – preceded two runs for the Aggies in the 8th and two more in the 9th.
The Irish offense continues to play without its 2004 RBI leader, junior DH Matt Bransfield, who suffered a hand injury in the season opener.
NOTES – The Irish have lost three straight games for just the 10th time in the 11-year Paul Mainieri era (four of the previous ND teams have gone on to lose four straight, with none losing five in a row) … the 3-game losing streak is ND’s first in 128 games, since early in the 2003 season (pair of losses at ASU, then lost to Nebraska and Minnesota at the Metrodome Classic) … Edwards owns a .444 career batting avg. in Spring Break games (22-for-63, 21 RBI, 10 R, 11 Ks, 5 2B, 2 HR, SAC, 10 BB, 4 HBP, 5 Es, 2-3 SB) and now leads the 2005 Irish in batting avg. (.400) and RBI (9) … Lilley (2-for-3), Gaston and Edwards combined to bat 7-for-11 (.636) but the 4-9 batters were just 4-for-23 (.179) … senior RHP John Axford, who missed all of the ’04 season due to injury, pitched in the 9th inning as one of five relief pitchers in the game … ND had been 18-2 in its previous 20 regular-season tournament games (since the 0-2 Metrodome start in ’03) … the Irish also were 16-2 in their previous 18 Spring Break games … ND now is 4-4 in Round Rock Classic games (also 1-3 in ’02, 3-0 in ’04) … A&M leads the all-time series vs. ND 2-1 (previous games in 1929 and ’69).
#15 TEXAS A&M (11-4) 0-2-0 0-0-7 0-2-2 – 13 16 0
NOTRE DAME (4-4) 1-0-2 0-1-0 1-0-0 – 5 11 2
Robert Ray, Kyle Nicholson (3; W, 1-0), Clayton Turner (6), Blake Rampy (8) and Justin Pouk, Lee Harughty (9).
Tom Thornton (L, 1-1), Joey Williamson (6), Mike Dury (7), Derik Olvey (8), John Axford (9), Dan Kapala (9) and Sean Gaston, Nick Mainieri (9).
Home Runs: Pouk (A&M; 2 on in 6th, 1st of season); Cliff Pennington (A&M; 1 on in 9th, 2nd of season).
Triple: Cliff Pennington (A&M).
Doubles: Matt Edwards (ND), Craig Cooper (ND), Pouk (A&M), John Infante (A&M), Coby Mavroulis (A&M).