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Freshmen Lead The Way As Winning Streak Grows To 14 Games, With Victories Over Chicago State (9-3) and Bowling Green (7-2)

April 10, 2003

Box Score

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame’s freshman class has played a key role in the 2003 season and Thursday’s doubleheader wins over Chicago State (9-3) and Bowling Green (7-2) featured plenty more contributions from the rookies, as the 16th-ranked Irish pushed their winning streak to 14 games with Wednesday’s pair of seven-inning wins at Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame (23-6) posted its 17th win in the last 18 games (21-1 in the last 23), with only the 2001 team (23-5-1) – which held the nation’s No. 1 ranking – owning a better record at the 29-game point in the program’s 111-year history (that 2001 team went 37-5-1 before suffering its sixth loss). The 14-game winning streak ranks as the third-longest of the Paul Mainieri era – trailing only a pair of 16-game runs in 2001 and ’02 – and matches the seventh-longest win streak in the program’s history (fifth-longest since 1910).

The Irish are batting .341 as a team in the 14-game winning streak with a 1.94 staff ERA in those games.

An assortment of freshman position players combined for 13 of the 19 Irish hits in the doubleheader, plus nine of the 12 RBI and 10 of the 16 runs scored. Righthander Ryan Doherty closed the first game with two strong innings while his fellow freshman pitcher, lefty Tom Thornton, turned in another quality start in the night game vs. Bowling Green (ND’s winning rally came after his five-inning stint).

Notre Dame’s trend of big innings (five-plus runs) continued in both games, with the Irish scoring eight runs in the second inning vs. Chicago State before breaking a 2-2 tie vs. Bowling Green with five runs in the bottom of the sixth. Notre Dame now has scored five-plus runs in 10 innings during the last eight games, with four of those recent big innings coming in the second frame.

Freshman utility player Cody Rizzo (3-for-3, 2 RBI, 3 R) was the hitting star of the Bowling Green game, while serving as the starting catcher. Rizzo singled and scored for a 1-0 lead in the second before his solo home run tied the game in the fourth (2-2). He later stroked the go-ahead single and scored for a 5-2 lead in the sixth-inning rally, with his season batting average now at .363 (trailing only Steve Sollmann’s .383 and Matt Edwards’ .375).

The Irish elected to rest several regulars (including Rizzo) in the Chicago State game, with a pair of freshman – leftfielder Alex Nettey and DH Matt Bransfield – making the most of their starting chances. Nettey’s three-run double served as the key hit in the eight-run explosion vs. the Cougars while Bransfield hit 2-for-2 with two RBI and a pair of runs scored.

Thornton allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits, two walks and a pair of wild pitches in the first five innings of the Bowling Green game, with a pair of strikeouts. Brandon Viloria then retired two of the three batters he faced and fellow senior righthander J.P. Gagne (3-3) notched the final four outs for the 24th victory of his career.

Sophomore Tyler Jones (2-0) picked up the win versus Chicago State, logging the fourth and fifth innings while striking our four of the minimum six batters he faced.

Winning Streak Stats: ND’s .341 team batting avg. in the 14-game win streak includes an average of 13.2 hits and 11.5 runs per nine innings, with the Irish batters totaling more walks (60) than Ks (50) in the streak … top hitters in the streak include Edwards (.404, 19-for-47, 20 RBI, 11 R, 3 HR, 3B, 5 2B, 8 BB), Rizzo (.400, 16-for-40, 16 RBI, 21 R, 2 HR, 3B, 3 2B, 3 BB, 6 HBP) and his classmates Craig Cooper (.393, 13-for-33, 12 R, 4 RBI, 3B, 7 BB, 3 SB) and Brennan Grogan (.378, 17-for-45, 15 R, 7 RBI, 4 3B, 5 BB, HBP, 5 SB) … the ND pitchers own a 1.94 staff ERA and .210 opp. batting avg. in the win streak, with nearly a 3-to-1 K-to-walk ratio (126/44) and 91 hits allowed in 116 innings …

Other Notes: Sophomore RHP Chris Niesel and senior RHP Ryan Kalita are slated to start this weekend’s game vs. Creighton (in Omaha), with Saturday’s game (4:30 CDT) to be broadcast in Nebraska by NETV (it also will be shown on April 22 by CSTV, DirectTV channel 610) … the Irish are 46-4 in April (.920) during the past three seasons (with a 166-36/.822 April record in the Mainieri era) … Viloria – who has not allowed a walk or earned run in 11.1 innings this season – saw his ND-record for low walk average drop to 1.38 per 9 IP (11/72) while he lowered his career ERA to 2.50 (4th in ND history, just behind the 2.49 posted by 1961 grad. Phil Donnelly and former teammate Aaron Heilman, ’98-’01) … Gagne made his 78th career appearance, trailing only Chris Michalak’s 92 from ’90-’93 and Heilman’s 83 in the ND record book … he needs one more win to move into a tie for 8th on the ND career victories list (25) … junior 2B Steve Sollmann (who went 0-for-4 Tuesday vs. Western Michigan) collected hits in both games, giving him hits in 23 of 29 games this season (he has gone hitless in back-to-back just once in ’03) … freshman CF Brennan Grogan hit 3-for-7 in the two games and now has hits in 16 of his last 19 games played … Rizzo hit just 4-for-17 in the previous six games but nonetheless now has scored 12 runs in last eight games, with eight RBI … junior 1B Matt Edwards saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end … sophomore SS Matt Macri hit 2-for-2 in the BG game, with an RBI and run scored … the Irish totaled 10 hits in the Chicago State game, their seventh double-digit hit game in a nine-game stretch.

Chicago State 0-0-3 0-0-0 0 – 3 2 2

Notre Dame 0-8-0 1-0-0 X – 9 11 2

Jason Stamper (L, 0-6), Daniel Soria (3), Danny Braswell (5) and John Szykowny, Brian Grippo (5).

Martin Vergara, Matt Arminio (3), Tyler Jones (4; W, 2-0), Ryan Doherty (6) and Steve Andres.

Double: Alez Nettey (ND).

Bowling Green 0-0-1 1-0-0 0 – 2 4 3

Notre Dame 0-1-0 1-0-5 X – 7 8 1

Tom Oestrike, Doug Flere (2), Tyler Johnson (3), Keith Laughlin (5), Matt Hundley (5), Burke Bishop (6), Neil Schmitz (6) and Kevin Longstretch.

Tom Thornton, Brandon Viloria (6), J.P. Gagne (6; W, 3-3) and Cody Rizzo.

Home Run: Cody Rizzo, ND (solo in 4th, 3rd of season).

Doubles: Matt Macri (ND), Nolan Reimold (BG), Kelly Hunt (BG).