Feb. 21, 2003
TEMPE, Ariz. – Kris Billmaier’s solo home run thwarted Dayton’s upset bid as the 11th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team downed the Flyers, 10-9, in the season opener for both teams at Arizona State’s Packard Stadium.
Notre Dame – which has won five of its last six season openers – took a 9-4 lead into the seventh inning before seeing Dayton rally to tie the game. Billmaier then connected on a 1-1 pitch in the top of the eighth, driving an offering from junior lefthander Caleb Thompson over the leftfield fence for the 11th home run of his Irish career.
Three Dayton errors in the first three innings led to six unearned runs for Notre Dame.
The Irish offense – despite losing five starters from the 2002 College World Series team – pounded out 18 hits for one of the most productive season openers in the program’s history (the ’02 squad managed just eight hits in its 7-6 opening win over Missouri). The 10 runs equal the most by Notre Dame in a season opener since the 1993 squad (led by current ASU coach Pat Murphy) posted an 11-3 win on the same field occupied by the Irish on Friday (in an 11-4 win over the Sun Devils). The 1995 Irish team also scored 10 runs in its opener, vs. Florida State at the ACC Disney Blast in Orlando (10-1).
Seven Notre Dame starters registered multiple hits, including three each by junior second baseman and 2-hole hitter Steve Sollmann (3 runs, triple), freshman DH Steve Andres (RBI, 3 R, 3B) and sophomore third baseman Matt Edwards(run, double). Billmaier (2 RBI, 2 R) and junior first baseman Joe Thaman (2 RBI) each added a pair of hits while hitting in the third and cleanup spots – with freshman outfielders Brennan Grogan (R) and Craig Cooper (stolen base) each producing two hits and two RBI from the bottom of the lineup.
Sophomore righthander Chris Niesel was in line for the victory, after allowing four runs on six hits and two walks in six innings of work (with one strikeout in his 79-pitch outing). Dayton then rallied versus freshman righthander Ryan Doherty but senior Brandon Viloria retired all four batters he faced to pick up the win before his classmate J.P. Gagne closed the ninth for the save.
Notre Dame’s five-run output in the third was sparked by Sollmann’s leadoff single up the middle and an errant throw by third baseman Kris Klemmer (with Sollmann running hard on the play to take third base). Thaman followed with a sacrifice fly down the rightfield line, Andres sent a two-out RBI single into center field and Edwards delivered on a fill-count single into the right-center gap. Grogan added an RBI single to right before Cooper capped the big inning by sending a 2-2 pitch to right-center, plating two more runs for a 7-2 lead.
Dayton posted its own five-run inning in the top of the seventh, started by Aaron Hepner’s single down the leftfield line and a weak flare into right by Jeff Bourassa. The Flyers then used two more hits, two walks and a hit batter to forge the 9-9 tie.
Thompson logged five innings in relief of sophomore righthander Drew Chesebro, who was touched for seven runs (one earned) on eight hits. Thompson then yielded three runs on 10 hits over the next eight innings.
Notre Dame opened the scoring in the first, after an error and singles from Billmaier and Thaman. Andres then d a leadoff triple down the leftfield line in the second inning and scored on a two-out fielding error by Klemmer.
One-out hits by Andres, Edwards (double) and Grogan pushed ND’s lead to 8-2 in the fifth, with another run coming across in the sixth after Sollmann’s one-out triple into the rightfield corner and Billmaier’s single to right-center.
Dayton 0-0-2 0-0-2 5-0-0 – 9 11 3
Notre Dame 1-1-5 0-1-1 0-1-X – 10 18 1
Drew Chesebro, Kaleb Thompson (4; 0-1) and Aaron Hepner.
Chris Niesel, Ryan Doherty (7), Brandon Viloria (7; 1-0), J.P. Gagne (9, SV) and Javi Sanchez.
Home Run: Kris Billmaier, ND (solo in 8th).
Triples: Steve Sollmann (ND), Steve Andres (ND), Jeff Bourassa (UD).
Doubles: Matt Edwards (ND), Pat Flynn (UD), Forrest Belcher 2 (UD).