April 30, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Dan Kapala logged another solid start and Ross Brezovsky’s big day at the plate paced a 14-hit attack, as the Notre Dame baseball team closed its 13-game homestand with Saturday’s 13-3 win over Cleveland State.
Notre Dame (27-15-1) – riding an 11-game unbeaten streak – lost just once during the three-week homestand (April 12-30) and owns an 18-3-1 record in all home games this season. The Irish now take six days off from competition during the finals break before next week’s BIG EAST showdown series at St. John’s (all three games will be telecast nationally, respectively by ESPNU, EPSN2 and CSTV).
Brezovsky was due for a breakout game and it came in a big way vs. Cleveland State (9-25), as the freshman second baseman delivered from the 9-hole by batting 4-for-4 with a walk, 5 RBI, 2 runs scored, his first home run of the season (a three-run shot that capped ND’s decisive five-run 5th) and a pair of doubles. Brezovsky – who entered the day with a sagging .252 season batting average that included just a .160 mark at Eck Stadium – had 2 RBI in the season-opening win over Florida A&M but had registered just one other multi-RBI game before knocking in five runs in Saturday’s game.
Kapala (4-1) continued his impressive role as a weekend starter, since making the first start of his Notre Dame career on April 9 vs. Boston College (opposed by BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-year candidate Mike Wlodarczyk). Kapala allowed just one earned run in the first four innings that day before tiring in the 5th – but he now has won his last three starts in fairly impressive fashion, including just one earned run allowed (plus one unearned) in a shortened 5.0-innning stint vs. Cleveland State. Kapala located 42 of his 61 pitches (69%) for strikes while scattering seven hits, no walks and a pair of strikeouts en route to the win.
Three Notre Dame batters – junior CF Alex Netter (RBI), senior 1B Matt Edwards (R, BB, 2B) and junior DH Matt Bransfield (R, 2 BB, 2B) – each hit 2-for-3, with Edwards collecting his team-leading 19th multiple-hit game of the season and 15th double (pushing his career total to 45).
Junior Steve Andres entered as the backup catcher in the 4th inning and responded by having a hand in five of the Irish runs (1-for-2, BB, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2B). Andres remains the master of the extra-base hit, as he has totaled two more extra-base hits (4 HR, 3B, 4 2B) than singles (7) in the ’05 season.
Notre Dame is in the midst of the 12th double-digit unbeaten streak of the 11-year Paul Mainieri era, with five previous Irish teams posting longer unbeaten streaks (see list below in notes section). Notre Dame also closes the book on yet another successful April, as Mainieri’s 11 teams now have combined to win 80.3% of their games in the month of April (+158; 209-51-1) compared to winning just 67% of the Feb./March games in the Mainieri era (+75; 167-82-1). The Irish were just three games over .500 in Feb./March this season (13-10) before rallying for a 14-5-1 mark (+9) in April, sparked by a 3.18 staff ERA during the month’s 20 games.
The Irish continued to be fast starters by scoring their 45th run in the 1st inning this season. Nettey sent a leadoff single up the middle and was erased on Brett Lilley’s failed sac. bunt – but Edwards moved Lilley to the other corner on a single to right-center and Craig Cooper’s leftside groundball gave the Irish a 1st-inning run for the 21st game this season.
The visitors tied the game in the 3rd – after Ben Smith’s leadoff single and Steve Chinn’s two-out triple – but the Irish answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Lilley drew a full-count walk, Edwards pulled a full-count double down the leftfield line and Cooper sent a two-run single into left field before moving up on the throw and coming in to score on a passed ball and wild pitch.
CSU plated another run in the 4th but Notre Dame again answered, this time with two runs for a 6-2 cushion. An Andres walk preceded Brezovsky’s first-pitch double down the right-field line (a run scored on the ensuing throwing error) and Nettey added an RBI single into left field for the four-run lead.
The hosts broke open the game with five runs in the 5th. Bransfield coaxed a full-count walk after a double play and freshman lefthander Vasili Pahoulis then hit Greg Lopez with the next pitch and Andres pulled the next offering down the rightfield line for an 8-2 lead. Brezovsky watched the next pitch sail out of the zone before sending his first home run of the season into the rightfield jetstream.
The Vikings scored their final run in the 6th and Brezovsky capped the scoring with RBI hits in the 7th (doubling home Andres) and the 8th (plating Bransfield).
Freshman lefthander Stephen Procner (1-2; 3.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R/5 ER, 5 BB, K) suffered the loss while four Irish relievers – sophomore RHP Jeff Manship, freshman LHP Wade Korpi, sophomore RHP Jess Stewart and freshman RHP Tony Langford – each tossed an inning, with Manship (finger) and Stewart (knee) easing back into regular roles after midseason injuries. Korpi (H, BB), Stewart (K) and Langford (K) combined to face just 10 batters in the final three innings to quickly close out the win.
The efficient Irish offense racked up 13 runs while leaving just nine runners on, overcoming another off-day from the 6-7-8 hitters (combined 1-for-11) after those spots went 0-for-15 (including Brezovsky’s 0-for-5 in the 8-hole) in Friday’s 13-inning win over CSU
NOTES – Kapala owns a 3.15 ERA in his last three starts (20 IP, 21 H, 7 Ks, 5 BB, .276 opp. avg.), lowering his season ERA to 3.80 (.278 opp. avg.) … ND is batting .317 at Eck Stadium with a 3.46 staff ERA and .960 fielding pct. (33 Es in 21 games) … junior LHP Tom Thornton (2.40 home ERA, .267 opp. avg.) and Kapala (2.76, .246) both are 3-0 at The Eck … the Irish have lost just once (13-1-1) since shifting Lilley to 3B and inserting Brezovsky at 2B – with that 15-game stretch including a .970 team fielding pct. (0-1 Es in 12 games; 19 total Es) … Lilley is batting .404 since shifting to the hot corner while his fellow leftside infielder Lopez has made just one error in those 15 games (77 chances, .987 fielding pct.) … the Irish hit .322 in the 13-game homestand – led by Lilley (.449) and Bransfield (.448) – with a 3.61 staff ERA and .976 fielding (18 Es) … Brezovsky, who had been batting 2-for-12 this week, boosted his season avg. from .252 to .276 (he is batting 65 points higher, .341, with runners in scoring position) … Bransfield is batting 10-for-24(.417) since returning to normal action (7 GP), after missing 18 games with a broken hand … Edwards, who has started all 43 games this season batting in the 3-hole, is hitting 11-for-28 (.393) in his current 7-game hitting streak … ND assistant coach David “Red” Grewe charts plate discipline with a ratio of BB+HBP-Ks and Lilley now is +30 (27+20-17) while Cooper is +23 (23+13-13) in that “Red Ratio” … Lopez was HBP for the 13th time this season (tying Cooper and Cody Rizzo for 2nd on the team, behind Lilley’s 20) while Nettey picked up his 12th HBP … no previous ND team had more than three players with 12-plus HBPs (the ’05 team now has five with 12-plus and 97 total HBPs, still 14th in NCAA history but two out of 11th) … Cooper picked up his 12th stolen base of the season and now has 34 in his career (three shy of that ND top-10 list) … ND extended the program’s 2nd-longest scoring streak to 190 games (also 421 of the last 422 and 660 of 666 in the Mainieri era) … the Irish are 21-1 this season when leading at the end of the 6th inning (just 4-13 when trailing), 15-1-1 when outhitting the opponent and 17-1 when limiting the opponent to 0-3 runs … the longest unbeaten streaks in the Mainieri era include: 17 from March 24-April 14, 2003; 16 from April 4-25, 2001, and April 11-May 4, 2002; 13 from April 8-23, 1998; and 12 from April 29-May 21, 2004 (the Irish now have posted a double-digit unbeaten streak in every season under Mainieri except 1997, including two in ’98, ’01 and ’04) … ND now looks to improve its 2005 road performance (9-12) that includes just a .283 team batting avg., a 5.68 staff ERA and .955 fielding pct. … Brezovsky (.323 on road, now .222 at Eck) and fellow freshman Langford (.382 road; .266 Eck) actually have hit higher away from home this season while Lilley is a .444 batter at The Eck but just .290 on the road (Edwards is hitting at a .423 clip at Eck Stadium this season, with a respectable .337 on the road).
Cleveland State (9-25) 0-0-1 1-0-1 0-0-0 – 3 10 3
Notre Dame (27-15-1) 1-0-3 2-5-0 1-1-X – 13 14 1
Stephen Procner (1-2), Vasili Pahoulis (4), Jason Bartnicki (5), Carmen DeChristofaro (8) and Dominic Erney, Sam Clyde (7).
Dan Kapala (W, 4-1), Jeff Manship (6), Wade Korpi (6), Jess Stewart (8), Tony Langford (9) and Sean Gaston, Steve Andres (4), Nick Mainieri (8).
Home Run: Ross Brezovsky, ND (2 on in 5th; 1st of season)
Triple: Steve Chinn (CS).
Doubles: Brezovsky 2 (ND), Matt Edwards (ND), Matt Bransfield (ND), Steve Andres (ND).