April 14, 2004
NOTRE DAME. Ind. – Jess Stewart logged five strong innings to improve to 4-0 for the season while a newly-shorn Matt Edwards had three hits to break out of his recent hitting slump, as the fourth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (27-5) scored multiple runs in five innings en route to a 17-5 win over visiting Oakland.
The 17 runs were the most for the Irish since the second week of the season, when Notre Dame scored 19 versus both Winthrop and Minnesota at the late-February Florida Atlantic Classic.
Notre Dame – which closed a 12-game homestand (10-2) – entered the week with the nation’s second-best winning percentage (improved to .844) and now is one of just five teams out of 287 in Division I baseball among the leaders for fewest losses (4-5), joining Texas (36-4), Albany (18-4), Stanford (26-5) and Eastern Kentucky (22-5) in that distinction.
The Irish own the nation’s 16th-ranked scoring offense (8.6 runs per game) and are scoring at a clip that would rank third in the program’s history (second-best in the last 46 seasons).
The Notre Dame pitching staff – despite the season-long absence of top pitchers John Axford and Jeff Manship and limited contributions from two others in Grant Johnson (returning from ’03 shoulder surgery) and Derik Olvey (has not pitched since March 23 due to a sore forearm) – continued its recent surge, holding 10 of the last 14 opponents to 0-2 earned runs while lowering the team ERA from 4.11 to 3.40 during that span (the current team ERA would rank 23rd in the nation). The Irish pitchers have allowed just two earned runs, 13 hits, a .146 opponent batting average and three walks in 25 innings of action this week (with 17 Ks).
Stewart had two strikeouts while scattering five hits in his 72-pitch outing, with just one of the four runs credited to the freshman righthander being of the earned variety.
Edwards – minus his trademark locks and sporting a new “buzz cut” – went 3-for-4 with an RBI, three runs scored and his first triple of the season (he also reached base two other times when hit-by-pitch). The junior first baseman boosted his season batting average from .284 to .312, ending a slump that had seen him bat just .175 over his last 18 games (after hitting .435 in the first month of the season).
Notre Dame sent 53 batters to the plate and 32 of them reached base in the team’s eight offensive innings (including 12 baserunners in the first three frames). Edwards and nine other Irish batters combined on a 14-hit attack, with the hosts also totaling eight bases on balls and four other times hit-by-pitch. Senior catcher Javi Sanchez scored three times while five different Notre Dame batters each had a pair of RBI.
Senior second baseman Zach Sisko hit 2-for-5 (2 RBI) and logged an error-free game in eight fielding chances, as the Irish continued to play without injured All-American Steve Sollmann (the senior 2B now has missed nine games as he recovers from a fractured jaw).
Notre Dame opened the game with four runs (its second-most productive 1st inning of the season) and added three more in the 3rd, after Oakland had capitalized on a two-out error to tie the game. The hosts then stretched to a 16-4 cushion with two runs in the 5th, four in the 6th and three more in the 7th.
The Irish now have scored in 121 straight games, matching the third-longest scoring streak in the program’s history (1930-37) behind two previous streaks in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era (133 from ’95-’97, 231 from ’99-’02). Notre Dame also has scored in 345 of its 346 games and in 588 of 592 during the Mainieri era (99.32%).
GAME NOTES – Stewart lowered his season ERA to 3.38, with his last two outings including just one earned run, 8 Ks, 6 H and 0 BB in 11 IP … freshman RHP Dan Kapala (2.1 IP, 10 BF, H, BB, K, HBP) dropped his ERA to 4.08 … sophomore DH Matt Bransfield (1-for-3, HBP, RBI, 2 R, now batting .325) has hits in 16 of his last 18 games and 9 of the last 10 … sophomore LF Steve Andres (1-for-3, BB, R) has hits in 14 of his last 15 games (all but 0-for-1 as pinch-hitter vs. SJU) and is hitting .347 overall … junior 3B Matt Macri (0-for-3, 2 BB; now .382) saw his career-best hitting streak end at 10 games … Sanchez has hits in 11 of his last 12 games (batting .314 overall), sophomore RF Craig Cooper in 11 of the last 13 (.338) … Macri still has just 5 errors all season (.949 fielding pct.) and has not made an error in his last 11 games (39 chances), with just 1 E in his last 21 games and 72 chances … sophomore SS Greg Lopez made just his 9th error of the season (he has 24 error-free games) … ND now has totaled 10 double-digit hit games (13 with 12-plus, 8 with 14-plus) and 12 games with 10-plus runs (11 with 12-plus, 6 with 15-plus) … the Irish have won by a margin of 5-plus runs 16 times this season, also posting 6 double-digit victory margins (plus 4 wins by 12-plus) … ND is 66-10 in April during the past four seasons and 54-9 in its last 63 at Eck Stadium … the Irish now own a 69-21 combined scoring edge in the 7th (37-12) and 8th (32-9) innings.
* See midseason checkup notes below linescore summary **
Oakland (7-20) 0-0-4 0-0-0 0-0-1 – 5 7 4
#4 Notre Dame (27-5) 4-0-3 0-2-4 3-1-X – 17 14 3
Dominic Carmosino (L, 1-4), Kyle Boehm (3), Mike Lozier (6), Ryan Good (7), Tim Edick (7), Tony Marulli (8), Dan Stinchcombe (8) and Kury Rosenacker, John Sullivan (7).
Triple: Matt Edwards (ND).
Doubles: Matt Bransfield (ND), Danny Dressman (ND), Tim Doig (OAK), Chad Winkler (OAK).
KEYS TO THE SEASON – No previous ND offense in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era has posted a positive margin when adding walks and HBPs and then subtracting strikeouts, but the ’04 team owes much of its success to a +24 in that statistical comparison (152 BBs + 58 HBPs – 186 Ks) … the previous nine ND team’s averaged a -61 in that margin (including a -61 by the ’03 squad, meaning the ’04 team is 85 points higher than its predecessor) … players with the best BB+HBP-K margins include Sollmann (+9), Andres (+7), Sanchez (+6), Edwards (+3) and Bransfield (+2) … not surprisingly, the Irish own the best on-base pct. of the Mainieri era and 4th-best in the program’s history (.417, a full 103 points above the team’s .314 batting avg.) … first-year pitching coach Terry Rooney targeted low walk totals as a key goal for the ’04 staff and the ND pitchers have responded with a walk avg. (2.58 per 9 IP) that would rank 2nd in the program’s history.
MIDSEASON CHECKUP (TEAM) – The ’04 offense’s average of 8.6 runs per game would rank 3rd in the ND record book and 2nd-best in the last 46 years (the ’58 team averaged 9.2 rpg, the ’93 squad 8.9) while only the 1997 Irish squad (11.4) has averaged more hits per game than the current team (10.9) … four ND batters were hit-by-pitch in Wednesday’s game, pushing the team’s season HBP total to 58 (already 4th-most in the ND record book, behind 75 in ’93, 74 in ’03, 69 in ’95) … the team’s .417 on-base pct. would rank 4th in the ND record book and best since ’94 (.457 in ’93, .433 in ’89, .419 in 94) … the Irish are on pace for 62 home runs (in 64 games, projecting BIG EAST Tournament and NCAA Regional games), which would rank 5th in the ND record book and would double the ’03 team’s total (31) … ND also is on pace to draw 304 walks (100 more than in ’03), which would be most by an Irish team since ’94 (the most BB in the Mainieri era has been 253, in ’02) … the ND pitchers own a .239 opp. batting avg. that ranks 2nd-best by an Irish staff since 1971 (.227 in ’75) while the ’04 staff’s low walk avg. (2.58 BB per 9 IP) narrowly trails the ND record (2.48, in ’01) … the program’s top K-to-walk ratio also belongs to the ’01 staff (2.92) but the current 2.54 would rank 2nd … the Irish bullpen is on pace for 16 saves (only the ’02 and ’03 teams have posted more, with 18 each) while the .967 team fielding pct. would trail only the .970 posted in ’03 … by finishing the regular season 19-5 or better, ND would set the team record for regular-season wins (the ’01 team ended the regular season with 45 wins and the ’90 team won 44, with five others totaling 41 regular-season W’s) … ND’s current .844 win pct. would rank better than the final record of all but three of the 111 previous ND teams (20-1/.952 in ’08, 21-2/.913 in ’07, 19-3/.864 in ’10) and would be the best in 94 years … the Irish need to win their next eight games for the best 40-game record in the program’s history and need a 13-1 streak to become the quickest to 40 wins (the top-ranked ’01 team was 34-5-1 and then 40-6-1).
MIDSEASON CHECKUP (INDIVIDUAL) – Three ND pitchers – freshman RHP Jeff Samardzija (0.33), sophomore closer Ryan Doherty (0.54) and junior RHP Grant Johnson (0.56) – own season ERAs that would best the ND record set 44 seasons ago by Jack Mitchell (0.71), with the next pitcher on that ND list being David Sinnes’ 1.05 in 1990 … sophomore LHP Tom Thornton’s 2.42 season ERA would rank 25th in the ND record book … ND’s top-three ERA leaders also would lead the current NCAA charts but they are shy of the minimum 1 IP per team game (32, with Samardzija at 27.2, Doherty 16.2 and Johnson 16.0) … Troy State’s Nate Moore (0.58) entered the week as the official NCAA leader in ERA, with Indiana’s Matt Saba 2nd (0.86) and no other pitcher below 1.00 … Thornton is on pace to log 106 innings (just seven previous ND pitchers have thrown more in a season) … five ND pitchers are on their way to posting some of the top opponent batting averages in the ND record book (since ’91), with Doherty (.093) and Samardzija (.131) well below the standing mark owned by Sinnes (.163, in ’92) … other top opp. avg.’s by current ND pitchers include Thaman (.177), Johnson (.203) and Thornton (.216), with only six ND previous pitchers since ’91 posting a better opp. batting avg. than Thornton … Doherty (2.70) and Samardzija (3.91) also could challenge the 41-year-old ND record for fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (4.83, by Ed Lupton in ’63) while Thaman’s 5.96 would rank 7th … Doherty’s 11.89 Ks per 9 IP would be 4th and most by an ND pitcher since ’65 … Stewart and Kapala’s low walk averages (1.53 BB/9 IP) would rank 9th in the ND record book while Kapala’s 6.33 K-to-walk ratio (19/3) would rank 2nd only to LHP Tom Price’s memorable 1994 mark (12.14; 85/7) … Doherty is on pace to become the 4th ND pitcher with 10-plus saves in season … junior RHP Chris Niesel is on pace for 82 Ks and could post the 9th ND season with 90-plus Ks … Doherty entered the week 26th in the NCAA rankings for saves while Macri was 28th in runs (now 38 R) … Macri is on pace for a 76-run season that would rank 4th in the ND record book … Macri also is on track for 86 hits (9 previous ND players had 90-plus) and 66 RBI (8 have posted 70-plus), plus a projected 142 total bases that would crack that ND top-10 list … Lopez is on pace to post the program’s 12th season with 20-plus doubles … Andres is on track for 50 walks, which would rank 5th in ND history and most since ’94 … sophomore CF Cody Rizzo already has 11 HBPs this season and is the only ND player ever to total more than 15 HBPs in a season (28, in ’03) … the ND record book includes just 11 previous players with 12-plus HBPs in a season but four current players (Lopez, Bransfield, Sanchez, Sollmann) have 6 HBPs at the midpoint.