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Axford And Gagne Combine For Strong Outings As #14 Irish Win Another Extra-Inning Thriller, Edging #7 Wake Forest In 13 (2-1)

March 2, 2003

Box Score

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – J.P. Gagne followed up John Axford’s seven strong innings by delivering six shutout innings in his home state and Joe Thaman won the game with a 13th-inning single up the middle as the 14th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team won a 2-1 battle with No. 7 Wake Forest, in Sunday’s final-round Metrodome action at the Dairy Queen Classic.

Notre Dame (3-4) – which outhit WFU 11-8 but left 12 runners on base (with two others picked off) – posted yet another extra-inning victory, with the Irish now owning a mark of 15-2-1 in their last 18 extra-inning games (dating back to 1997; 6-1 in the last seven).

The game ranks as the third-longest in the nine-year Paul Mainieri era and is the longest for the Irish in five years, since Alec Porzel’s home run ended a 15-inning, 5-3 game vs. West Virginia on May 3, 1998 (at Eck Stadium). The longest game of the Mainieri era came on May 2, 1995, when the Irish outlasted Michigan in a 16-inning game at Old Kent Park in Grand Rapids, Mich. (7-6).

Wake Forest (5-3) had tied the game in the top of the seventh but failed to dent Gagne (Bloomington, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall HS), who retired the final 10 batters he faced en route to his 22nd career victory with the Irish (tied for 10th in ND history). The senior righthander’s 86-pitch outing included two strikeouts, one walk and four hits allowed.

Axford scattered four hits, two walks and four strikeouts over his seven innings, dropping the sophomore righthander’s season ERA to an impressive 2.08 in 13 innings (12 H, 4 BB, 5 Ks).

Notre Dame averted what would have been the first five-game losing streak in the nine-year Paul Mainieri era, with the Irish also losing four straight in 1995, ’99 and 2002.

WFU junior righthander Adam Hanson (0-1) worked out of several jams after entering the game in the eighth, with the Irish putting the potential winning run on base every inning from the 9th-13th.

Notre Dame entered the bottom of the 13th riding a frustrating 0-for-12 day with runners in scoring position before staging the winning rally. Three freshmen sparked the sequence with singles, as centerfielder Cody Rizzo sent Hanson’s first-pitch offering into center field (he then was picked off for the second out) before reserve DH Alex Nettey stroked another first pitch into shallow left field.

Leftfielder Craig Cooper – who had been hitless in his nine previous at-bats this weekend – then delivered on a 1-0 pitch, placing a linedrive into left-center that moved Nettey to third (Cooper took second on a bad throw).

Thaman – whose double held up as the game-winner in a similar game at Mississippi State early in the 2001 season (4-2, in 11 innings) – shook off his own 0-for-9 slump by working ahead in the count before the junior first baseman sent an 0-2 pitch that sliced between the second-base bag and a diving second baseman Chris Getz, with Nettey racing home to end the three-hour, 44-minute game.

Much like the 2002 game at MSU (which would have ended in a tie after the 11th inning), Sunday’s game could have ended as a tie in the record books if neither team had scored by the end of the 14th.

Notre Dame opened the scoring in the fourth vs. sophomore lefthander Tim Morley, who logged 6.2 solid innings (4 H, 3 BB, 7 Ks). Senior rightfielder Kris Billmaier (no outs, 1-1 pitch) and junior catcher Javi Sanchez (1-out, 0-2) both reached on singles through the left side of the Metrodome turf infield before Morley hit Rizzo with the next pitch. Freshman DH Steve Andres then lifted a flyout to left-center, plating Billmaier for the 1-0 lead.

WFU tied the game in the seventh, thanks to pair of two-strike hits and an errant pitch by Axford. Ryan Hubbard sent a leadoff single to center field (2-2 pitch) and motored to third on Jeff Ruziecki’s one-out, full-count single up the middle. Axford’s wild pitch then allowed Hubbard to score the tying run.

NOTES: Sophomore SS Matt Macri returned to the leadoff spot (where he hit during last week’s Arizona trip) while sophomore 3B Matt Edwards hit cleanup for the first time in his young ND career … ND’s previous three opponents had scored 1st-inning runs … Axford rolled up his second and third double-play balls of the season, after serving up a team-best 18 DP groundballs in 2002 … Gagne made his 67th career appearance with the Irish, tying Brian Piotrowicz (’90) and former teammate John Corbin (’00) for 8th in ND history.

#7 WAKE FOREST 0-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 0 – 1 8 2

#14 NOTRE DAME 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1 – 2 11 0

Tim Morley, Daniel Davidson (7), Adam Hanson (8) and Steve Malinowski.

John Axford, J.P. Gagne (8; W, 1-1) and Javi Sanchez.

Double: Ben Ingold (WFU).