Feb. 22, 2002
Freshman righthander Grant Johnson logged six strong innings of relief while Matt Bok’s solo home run and Ken Meyer’s pinch-hit double helped Notre Dame overcame an early 5-1 deficit, as the fourth-ranked and undermanned Irish baseball team opened its season Friday with a 7-6, 10-inning win over Missouri in first-day action of the New Orleans/Ron Maestri Classic at Privateer Park.
Notre Dame – which played most of the game without its starting middle infielders – trailed 5-1 after four innings before plating three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Missouri (3-2) then tied the game on Cody Ehler’s solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, with two errors later helping the Irish push across the winning run in the 10th.
Johnson registered 15 outs on the final 16 batters he faced, including eight straight batters retired at one point (plus three fielders choice plays in the fifth and a clutch double-play ball to first baseman Joe Thaman in the ninth). The 6-6, 220-pound rookie did not walk a batter in his 97-pitch outing while four of the six hits he allowed came in his first two innings of work (the 4th and 5th, in relief of junior Peter Ogilvie). Johnson was tagged for just two runs, with 13 of his 18 ours coming via groundballs (12) or strikeouts (1).
Sophomore Javier Sanchez had a solid game as ND’s starting shortstop, in place of injured freshman Matt Macri (out indefinitely with an elbow strain) – with shortstop being the only position where the Irish lost a starter (graduated Alec Porzel) from the record-setting 2001 season. Preseason All-American Steve Sollmann then missed the final four-and-a half innings, after suffering a leg injury as he ran to first base in the top of the 5th.
Senior righthander Matt Buchmeier picked up his third career save, after retiring three of the four batters he faced in the 10th.
Notre Dame pushed its recent extra-inning success to 11-1-1 in the last 13 extra-inning games (dating back to 1997) while the Irish now have won four of their last five season openers.
The winning rally opened with Brian Stavisky reaching with one out in the 10th, when second baseman Felipe Tetelbion bobbled his sharp grounder. Kris Billmaier’s swinging bunt moved Stavisky to second before Paul O’Toole sent a tough ball to the left side. Third baseman Jody Roughton made the charging throw but he pulled first baseman Mick Weiss up the line, with O’Toole knocking the ball out of Weiss’s glove as he ran to the bag (the ball rolled into foul territory and Weiss was charged with the two-base error that allowed Stavisky to score the go-ahead run).
The Irish began their comeback by cashing in four hits for three runs in the 5th. Bok took a 1-2 pitch from freshman righthanded starter Justin James and drilled the second home run of his ND career over the rightfield fence. Thaman then reached on a 2-2 count, ripping a shot off the first-base bag that kicked off the glove of Weiss for a one-out double. Sanchez kept the rally going with an infield single off the pitcher, followed by Stanley’s full-count RBI single through the left side, his second stolen base of the game and Sollmann’s run-scoring groundout to the third baseman.
The Irish opened the game with a run, as Stanley ripped a leadoff single off the glove of a leaping third baseman Jody Roughton. A stolen base and Sollmann’s well-executed groundball to the right side moved the runner to third before Stavisky stroked a first-pitch single to right-center.
Ryan Rallo’s RBI double tied the game in the second inning before the Tigers used four hits and an Irish error to plate three runs in the third, capped by Rallo’s RBI single to right-center. A single from Ehlers then pushed Missouri to its 5-1 lead in the top of the fourth.
James opened the 6th by losing Billmaier to a four-pitch walk before second baseman Felipe Tetelboin let O’Toole’s groundball go through his legs (with Billmaier scooting to third). The error proved costly, with a balk by James allowing the tying run to score.
Two batters later, Missouri called in senior lefthander Aaron Paterson but the Irish countered by making their typical senior DH switch, with Meyer bringing his 8-for-29 career pinch-hitting average to the plate. Paterson worked ahead in the count (1-2) but Meyer pulled a double into left field, with O’Toole scoring for the 6-5 Irish lead.
Ehlers likewise delivered on a 1-2 pitch in the bottom of the 6th, launching a pitch from Johnson into the wind and over the rightfield fence to forge the 6-6 tie.
Sanchez earlier had made a huge play in the 5th, with one out and runners on second and third. Luke Cassis hit a slow roller to the left side but Sanchez charged and threw home, with O’Toole tagging out Lee Laskowski to maintain the one-run deficit (5-4).
A pair of freshman helped fill Sollmann’s spot in the lineup, with Geoff Milsom playing at second base in the 5th and 6th innings while the righthanded-hitting Matt Edwards pinch-hit in the top of the 7th before closing the game at shortstop (with Sanchez moving to second).
Sanchez made several tough plays at shortstop and second base, including a diving stop to his right to set up the final out in the 8th.
Ehlers collected his third hit of the game with one out in the 9th but Johnson induced a full-count groundball from Weiss, with Thaman flipping to Edwards and shuffling his feet over the bag on the return throw to send the game into extra innings.
W.T. Hoover singled up the middle in the bottom of the 10th and moved up on Rallo’s bunt – but pinch-hitter Kurt Propst went down swinging at a 2-2 pitch and Cassis ended the game with a 2-2 groundout to the third baseman Andrew Bushey.
#4 NOTRE DAME (1-0) 1-0-0 0-3-2 0-0-0-1 7 9 3MISSOURI (3-2) 0-1-3 1-0-1 0-0-0-0 6 13 3
Peter Ogilvie, Grant Johnson (1-0), Matt Buchmeier (SV) and Paul O’Toole. Justin James, Aaron Paterson and Garrett Broshuis (1-1).
Home Runs: Matt Bok, ND (solo in 4th), Cody Ehlers, Missouri (solo in 6th, third of season)
Doubles: Ken Meyer (ND), Joe Thaman (ND), Ryan Rallo (Missouri).