Feb. 29, 2004
BOCA RATON, Fla. (2/29/04) – Freshman catcher Sean Gaston’s five-hit day paced a 19-hit attack as the 10th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team improved to 6-0 for the first time in 44 seasons, winning the Florida Atlantic Classic with a 19-7 victory over Midwest rival and 25th-ranked Minnesota in Sunday afternoon action at FAU Stadium.
The Notre Dame offense continued to roll and now has totaled 63 runs, the most by a Notre Dame team at the six-game mark since the 1913 squad scored 70 runs in its first six games. The 1960 squad is the last Notre Dame team to open 6-0, en route to a 9-0 start.
Minnesota claimed a 2-0 lead in the 4th and then surged back ahead in the 5th (6-4) – only to see the Irish tie the game in the bottom of that inning and follow with the decisive seven runs in the 6th.
Gaston – who entered 2004 having never posted even a four-hit game in his competitive baseball career – followed up his 4-for-5 game on Saturday versus Florida Memorial by hitting safely on his first five at-bats vs. Minnesota, yielding a blistering 10-for-11 start to his Note Dame career. An 8th-inning flyout prevented the 6-foot, 170-pound lefthander from tying the Irish record for hits in a game (shared by former Irish shortstop Alec Porzel and current second baseman Steve Sollmann) but the Brownsburg, Ind., native did become the first ND freshman to collect five-plus hits since the 1994 season, when Sollmann’s brother Scott hit 5-for-6 in a game at Purdue. Former Notre Dame first baseman Joe Binkiewicz is the only other ND freshman ever to collect five hits in a game, batting 5-for-5 vs. Dayton in 1989.
Junior third baseman Matt Macri (Clive, Iowa) turned in his own strong day, registering the first four-hit game of his Notre Dame career while driving in a career-best six runs to come up one shy of that ND record (shared by Steve Sollmann and six others who have posted 7-RBI games). Macri’s 4-for-6 day included five runs scored, a two-run blast that forged a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 4th and a bases-clearing triple in the 8th.
Three Irish players – Gaston, Macri and sophomore rightfielder Brennan Grogan (4-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) – combined for 13 of the team’s 19 hits.
Freshman righthander Derik Olvey (Pelham, Ala.) had a solid debut but was unable to get through the 5th, following a series of bad-hop singles. Olvey was responsible for Minnesota’s first five runs on seven hits and no walks, with one strikeout.
Another freshman righthander, 6-5, 210-pound Dan Kapala (Royal Oak, Mich.), came on in relief of senior lefthander Joe Thaman to pick up the win. Kapala (1-0) faced 12 batters while pitching the 6th-8th innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out four Minnesota batters. Freshman lefthander Mike Dury (Indianapolis, Ind.) allowed a pair of hits while closing things out in the 9th.
Minnesota opened the scoring in the top of the 4th, sparked by Mike Mee’s one-out single through the left side of the infield and Jake Elder’s single up the middle. Andy Hunter then followed with a double to right field and David Hrnicik added an RBI groundout for the 2-0 lead.
Notre Dame – which hit three solo home runs in Saturday night’s 3-2 win over host FAU – quickly answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Shortstop Matt Fornasiere threw errantly on a leadoff grounder from Javi Sanchez (one of four Gophers errors in the games, to go along with several other misplays and mental mistakes in the field) and Macri followed two batters later by driving a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right-center field for his first home run of the season and the sixth of his Notre Dame career.
Gaston then sent a 1-1 pitch through the right side, stole second (with two outs) and took third when the middle infielder failed to cover second base on the throw. Sophomore rightfielder Brennan Grogan (Temecula, Fla.) followed with a full-count single up the middle and added his own stolen base before scoring on Sollmann’s single up the middle on a 3-0 count.
The offense kept coming in the top of the 5th, with three Minnesota singles forging a 4-3 game and ending Olvey’s debut. Thaman’s wild pitch brought home the tying run and the lefthanded-hitting Mee then put the Gophers back in front (6-4) with a two-run shot down the rightfield line.
The Irish again had a response in the bottom of the 5th, with Sanchez sending the first pitch through the left side of the infield before Gaston delivered a two-out, first-pitch double into the right-center gap (plating Macri all the way from first). Lefthander Tim Theis then came on to relieve righthanded starter Matt Loberg (4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R/2 ER, BB, 2 Ks) and rolled up a potential inning-ending grounded, but the ball skipped under second baseman Dan Thompson’s glove as Gaston scored for a 6-6 game.
Notre Dame pushed across seven runs in the 6th despite totaling just four hits, on singles from Sollmann, Macri (RBI and Craig Cooper (2 RBI) and Gaston’s RBI double. The big inning also included a sacrifice bunt from Cooper, a passed ball, two wild pitches, walks by Matt Edwards, Grogan and Sollmann, sacrifice flies from Sanchez (ending the day for Theis) and Lopez, and Cody Rizzo reaching on a hit-by-pitch
NOTES: ND is batting .352 as a team with a 63-20 scoring edge, 8 home runs (b7 6 different players), a .526 slugging pct., 25 walks and 35 Ks … the ND staff ERA stands at 3.29, with a .249 opponent batting avg. and a 4.2 K-to-walk ratio (49/12) … ND’s team fielding pct. is .987 (3 errors) … check back later for tournament stats and all-tournament selections … freshman CF Danny Dressman did not play due to a sprained ankle … the Irish have totaled 13 more runs than runners left on base (50) … top hitters include Gaston (.833, 10-for-12, 1.083 slugging, 3 2B, 2 SB), Grogan (.467, 7-for-15, 5 RBI, 5 R, 2B, BB), Lopez (.409, 9-for-22, 6 R, 2 2B, HR, 10 RBI, .636 slugging, BB, SB), Edwards (.400, 8-for-20, 400, 6 R, 8 RBI, 3 HR, 2 2B, 950 slugging, 3 BB) and Macri 375, 9-24, 8 R, 8 RBI, HR, 3B, 2B, 3 BB, SB … nine of the last 13 ND batters to post five-hit games (not counting the 6-hit games from righthanders Porzel and Steve Sollmann) have been lefthander hitters: Dan Peltier and Binkiewicz in ’89, Scott Sollmann in ’94, switch hitter Allen Greene in ’97, Dan Leatherman in ’98, Steve Stanley in ’01 and ’02 teammates Brian Stavisky and Paul O’Toole.
Minnesota 0-0-0 2-4-0 0-1-0- 7 13 4Notre Dame 0-0-0 4-2-7 2-4-X - 19 19 1
Matt Loberg, Tim Theis (5; L, 0-1), Josh Oslin (6), Jonathan Holt (8) and Jake Elder, Gary Dick (7).Derik Olvey, Joe Thaman (5), Dan Kapala (6; W, 1-0), Mike Dury (9) and Sean Gaston, Nick Mainieri (9).Home Runs: Matt Macri, ND (1 on in 4th; 1st of season; 6th of career); Mike Mee, Minn. (1 on in 4th; 1st of season); Andy Hunter (solo in 8th; 1st of season).Triple: Macri (ND).Doubles: Sean Gaston 2 (ND), Hunter (Minn.).