Oct. 9, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame’s big sophomore pitching tandem of 7-foot-2 righthander Ryan Doherty and 6-6 lefthander Tom Thornton both turned in solid starts, each with no unearned runs allowed, but the game featured more miscues from both sides in Thursday’s third and final game of the Notre Dame baseball program’s annual Blue-Gold series. Doherty’s Gold team registered a 5-1 win but it once again was a case of winning the battle but losing the war, as the Blue team narrowly won the series title based on run differential (thanks to earlier 9-7 and 13-10 wins).
Only one of the runs in Game 3 was of the earned variety, with the teams combining for just seven hits (none going for extra bases) while manufacturing runs in several unique ways.
Doherty – who posted a 2.20 ERA with the Irish last spring (44 Ks, 11 BB, 21 H in 28.2 IP) before a dominating spring with the Delaware (Ohio) Cows (0.46, 28 Ks, 15 BB, 10 H in 19.2 IP) – picked up the win after pitching just three innings due to the 65-pitch limit, allowed an unearned run on one hits and three walks while striking out four Blue batters.
Thornton was the tough-luck loser after yielding two unearned runs in the maximum four innings, allowing two hits with one walk and a hit batter.
A pair of freshman righthanders closed out the game with four shutout innings. Jess Stewart retired all seven batters he faced, needing just 13 pitches to do so, while walk-on Nick Bertucci picked up the save by recording the final five outs and allowing just one hit (he faced just seven batters, on an economical 19 pitches).
Senior second baseman Steve Sollmann (2-for-4, RBI, 2 R, 2 SB) paced the Gold in Game 3 and led the series in hits after batting 7-for-13 with six runs scored and four stolen bases (RBI, HBP).
The Gold cashed in a pair of errors on stolen-base attempts for two runs in the first. Sollmann singled to right-center, stole second and took third on the error before Thornton hit sophomore catcher Matt Bransfield with a pitch. Bransfield then stole second and took third on another error (with Sollmann scoring) before junior first baseman Matt Edwards plated the second run with a sacrifice fly to left-center.
The Blue redefined the term manufactured run in the third. Sophomore catcher Nick Mainieri struck out but reached base when his counterpart mishandled the third strike for a passed ball. Mainieri then took second on a groundout and nearly went to third on ball in the dirt. Bransfield tried the backdoor pickoff move but his throw skipped into center field, where freshman Danny Dressman had time to hold the runner but let the ball kick off his glove for a rare E-8 on a play that originated in the infield.
The Blue team’s centerfielder, sophomore Cody Rizzo, then delivered his fourth RBI of the series, sending a 2-out, 2-2 pitch up the middle to forge a 2-1 game.
The Gold tacked on two more unearned runs in the fifth, after a misplayed fly ball to right field put Alex Nettey on third base. Sollmann then delivered the RBI single, going the other way down the rightfield line on a 1-0 pitch versus freshman Dan Kapala before being out a pickoff attempt and taking third on balk. Bransfield then added another rarity, a popup sacrifice fly to senior shortstop Javi Sanchez (who had to make a stumbling catch beyond the dirt).
The game appeared to be over after the top of the 7th, with the Gold leading 4-1, but the teams went ahead and played the bottom of the 7th (even though the Blue did not bat in the bottom of the 7th in Game 2). But the Blue went out and essentially won the series for a third time (the first coming by winning the first two games).
The Gold made things interesting when Dressman drew a 1-out walk on four pitches, Bransfield drew a full-count walk and Edwards lifted a single into shallow center field to load the bases. Sophomore leftfielder Steve Andres forced home a run with a four-pitch walk – putting Edwards on second as the potential series-winning run (the Blue would have won the series on a run-differential tiebreaker). But freshman righthander Chris Vasami rolled up a double play to the shortstop Sanchez (6U-3) to clinch the series one last time.
Blue Series Stats: The Blue hit .284 while scoring 23 runs (15 via RBI) , with a .407 slugging pct. (HR, 2 3B, 3 2B), a .379 on-base pct. (10 BB, 3 HBP) and was 6-of-6 on stolen bases … situational hitting included .349 batting with runners on (13 runners LOB), a .450 leadoff on-base pct., .357 batting with RBI opportunities and .324 with 2 outs (six 2-out RBI) … the Blue made 10 errors, had two passed balls and turned four double plays, with an .897 fielding pct. … the Blue pitchers posted a 6.43 ERA staff ERA in 21 IP, allowing 28 hits, a .322 opp. avg., 13 walks and 4 hit batters while posting 11 Ks (15 of the Gold’s runs were earned, 7 unearned) … three Blue players hits above .300: senior RF/1B Zach Sisko (5-for-10, 3 R, 2 2B, 3B, RBI), Sanchez (4-for-9, 3 R, 2B, 3B, 5 RBI, HBP, SF) and Mainieri (3-for-8, 2 R, 3 RBI, HBP, SAC) … sophomore LF Brennan Grogan scored 4 runs and had 3 stolen bases while Rizzo scored 3 times.
Gold Series Stats: The Gold hit .322 while scoring 22 runs (18 via RBI_, with a .368 slugging pct. (4 2B), a .425 on-base pct. (13 BB, 4 HBP) and was 9-of-12 on stolen bases … situational hitting included .319 with runners on (21 LOB), a .348 leadoff on-base pct., .394 batting with runners in scoring position and .280 with 2 outs (four 2-out RBI) … the Gold made 8 errors, had 3 passed balls and turned 2 double plays, with a .916 fielding pct. … the Gold pitchers posted a 5.85 staff ERA in 20 IP, allowing 23 hits, a .284 opp. avg., 10 walks, 3 hit batters and 2 wild pitches while posting 10 Ks (13 of the Blue’s runs were earned, 10 unearned) … Bransfield reached base nine times in the series and had a hand in 10 of the Gold’s runs (4-for-7, 3 BB, 2 HBP, reached on E, 4 R, 6 RBI, 2 2B, SF, SB) … Sollmann (see stats above) and Dressman (4-for-11, 5 R, 2 2B, RBI, 3 BB, 2 SB) were the only other Gold players to hit above .333 … Edwards, Andres and senior DH/3B Tim Murray scored 3 runs each.
ND BLUE 0-0-1 0-0-0 0 – 1 2 3
ND GOLD 2-0-0 0-2-0 1 – 5 5 2
Tom Thornton (L), Dan Kapala (5), Cody Wilkins (6), Tyler Jones (7), Chris Vasami (7) and Matt Bransfield.
Ryan Doherty (W), Jess Stewart (4), Rico Bertucci (6) and Sean Gaston.
Extra-base hits: none.