Feb. 28, 2004
BOCA RATON, Fla. – Junior first baseman Matt Edwards (Mechanicsville, Va.) launched the game-tying and go-ahead home runs while sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton matched All-American Randy Beam with another strong outing as the 10th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team remained unbeaten with a 3-2 win over No. 12 Florida Atlantic in Saturday’s continuing action at the FAU Doubletree Classic.
Notre Dame (5-0) – which also posted an earlier 12-3 win over Florida Memorial, in a non-tournament makeup game – struck for three solo home runs, with senior catcher and Miami native Javi Sanchez tying the game in the top of the fourth. The Irish are unbeaten after five games for the first time since 1992 and could post the program’s first 6-0 start since 1960 by beating Minnesota on Sunday (11:00 a.m. EST).
Florida Atlantic (11-1) suffered its first loss in a tightly-contested game that featured a standoff between the lefthanded starters Thornton and Beam.
Three different Irish relievers – junior righthander Tyler Jones, senior lefty Joe Thaman and sophomore righthander Ryan Doherty – each retired a batter in the 8th, with Doherty returning in the 9th to pick up the victory. The performance of the ND staff this weekend is all the more noteworthy due to the absence of junior righthander Grant Johnson (who is sidelined with tonsillitis).
Notre Dame posted yet another error-free effort, with the Irish infield turning an impressive sequence to end the game. Doherty entered the 9th looking to quickly close the win but 5-hole hitter Tim Mascia led off by sending an 0-1 pitch up the middle. Sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez narrowly missed the ball after diving to his left and FAU then gambled by sending pinch-runner Mike McBryde on a 1-1 count. The Owls could have bunted the tying run to third but Alex Fonseca sent a groundball to the left side, with Lopez holding the runner and throwing to Edwards for the first out.
Anthony Albano then walked on five pitches and FAU sent freshman lefthander Robbie Widlansky up to pinch-hit for catcher Rob Orton. Doherty fell behind (2-0) before Widlansky took a strike and fouled off the next pitch. The count then went full and Widlansky fouled off the next three pitches before sending a sharp grounder to the right side.
Notre Dame was positioned in a formation it practices on a daily basis, with Edwards playing back in order to ensure that the potential winning run is forced out at second (while likely foregoing the potential 3-6-3 double play). Edwards stabbed the grounder and threw to second for the initial forceout and Lopez alertly saw the freshman McBryde taking a big turn around third. With Edwards out of position for a return throw, Lopez quickly fired to junior third baseman Matt Macri, who ran McBryde down the line and relayed on to the catcher Sanchez to complete the dramatic game-ending rundown.
FAU had brought on righthanded bullpen ace Craig Hughes – who had not allowed a run in six previous outings and 13.2 innings – with one out in the top of the 9th. Edwards worked to a 1-1 count before sending a curveball to the left-center gap. The centerfielder Mascia went up for the ball but it carried over the fence for the 3-2 lead.
Thornton – coming off a BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week performance in a 3-1 win at No. 20 USC – allowed just two runs on six hits and no walks in seven innings of work, with seven strikeouts and a pair or hit batters in his 99-pitch stint. Beam’s similar 108-pitch outing included two runs on four hits and one walk, with four strikeouts in 8.1 innings.
FAU opened the scoring in the 3rd, sparked by one-out singles from Jarrod Haugh and Derek Hutton. Thornton then worked ahead in the count versus the 2-hole hitter but hit Evan Brannon with an 0-2 pitch, moving Haugh to third. Preseason All-American Jeff Fiorentino then lifted a sacrifice fly to right field for the 1-0 lead.
Sanchez tied the game moments later, launching a 1-0 pitch over the leftfield fence for the seventh home run of his Notre Dame career and first since the 2003 spring break trip.
The hosts quickly retook the lead in the bottom of the 4th, after Fonseca’s double to left-center and Anthony Albano’s RBI single up the middle.
Edwards took his turn with a game-tying home run in the 7nth, working to a 2-2 count before going with a changeup and riding the wind for an opposite-field shot over the fence in right-center. It was the second home run for Edwards in the young season and his 10th in 76 career games with the Irish (he added his 11th two innings later).
FAU had a chance to retake the lead in the bottom of the 7th, after Albano’s leadoff single through the right side, Orton’s sacrifice bunt and a 3-0 count for Jarrod Lauth. But Thornton caught Lauth looking at the next two pitches and the 9-hole hitter went down swinging – with leadoff batter Derek Hutton then set down looking at a 2-2 pitch to end the threat.
NOTES: ND had not trailed in the first four games this season, with FAU holding the lead for a half-inning and then 2.5 innings … six of Sanchez’s seven home runs with the Irish have come away from home … Thornton’s strong start includes a 1.38 ERA, 11 strikeouts, 2 walks and 10 hits allowed in 13 innings (with a .233 opp. batting avg.) … Thornton and junior RHP Chris Niesel have combined for some impressive numbers as the 1-2 starters, with a 1.40 combined ERA, a 5-to-1 K-to-walk ratio (25/5) and 21 hits allowed in 25.2 IP (.239) … the overall staff ERA stands at 2.51, with a .227 opp. batting avg., 42 Ks, just 11 BB and 34 hits in 43 IP … ND is batting .329 with a 44-13 scoring edge … Edwards is batting .500 (8-for-16) with a 1.188 slugging pct. (3 HR, 2 2B) and 8 RBI … Lopez is hitting at a .471 clip (8-for-17, 8 RBI), followed by sophomore RF Cody Rizzo (.357, 5-for-12, 2 RBI) … freshman C Sean Gaston (4-for-5, RBI, 3 R, SB) led the 15-hit attack vs. Florida Memorial, followed by freshman CF Brennan Grogan (2-for-5, 2-run HR, 2 R), Lopez (2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) and sophomore RF Craig Cooper (2-for-4, 2 RBI, BB) … ND’s 10 starter vs. FMC included four freshmen, five sophomores and Macri … Jess Stewart (5 IP, 2 R, 5 H, BB, 4 Ks) picked up the win over the Lions, with fellow freshman RHPs Chris Vasami (2 IP, R, 2 H, 2 Ks) and Jeff Samardzija (2 IP, 2 Ks, 6 BF) closing the game.
#10 Notre Dame (5-0) 0-0-0 1-0-0 1-0-1 – 3 5 0
#12 Florida Atlantic (11-1) 0-0-1 1-0-0 0-0-0 – 2 7 1
Tom Thornton, Tyler Jones (8), Joe Thaman (8), Ryan Doherty (8; W, 1-0) and Javi Sanchez.
Randy Beam, Craig Hughes (9; L, 2-1) and Rob Orton.
Home Runs: Javi Sanchez, ND (solo in 4th; 1st of season, 7th of career); Matt Edwards, ND (solo in 7th; 2nd of season, 10th of career); Edwards (solo in 9th).
Doubles: Alex Fonseca (FAU).
Florida Memorial (6-6-1) 0-1-1 0-0-1 0-0-0 – 3 7 1
#10 Notre Dame (4-0) 2-2-3 1-3-0 1-0-X – 12 15 1
Enrique Valle (L, 0-1), Jose Reyes (4), Osvani Mesa (7), Ashan Sanders (9) and Victor Leon, Ernie Beaz (7).
Home Runs: Brennan Grogan, ND (1 on in 3rd, 1st of career), Jose R. Reyes, FMC (solo in 6th, 1st of season).
Doubles: Sean Gaston (ND), Grogan (ND), Greg Lopez 2 (ND).