April 17, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Chris Niesel’s complete-game effort led Notre Dame to a 5-2 win in the seven-inning opener but Pittsburgh’s 14-hit attack earned a 5-3 win in the nightcap, as the Irish and Panthers split a BIG EAST doubleheader in Thursday afternoon action at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (27-8, 8-2 BIG EAST) – which returns to action in Saturday’s noon doubleheader vs. Seton Hall – came up with eight hits and manufactured some timely runs in the first game – with Pittsburgh (27-12, 8-7) then cashing in enough scoring chances in game two to gain the split.
Niesel (5-1) improved to 9-1 in his Notre Dame career, after allowing the two runs on eight hits and no walks (plus four strikeouts). Senior righthander Joe Engel (3-4) took the loss, yielding five runs on eight hits and one walk in 5.1 innings of work.
Pittsburgh junior righthander Don Rhoten had a strong outing in the nightcap but came up one out shy of earning the decision, allowing just one run on one hits and three walks in his 62-pitch, 4.2-inning stint. Sophomore righthander Jimmy Blue (3-1) then picked up the win, recording five outs while allowing a pair of unearned runs in the seventh. Junior righthander Jeff Barnyak set down eight of the 10 batters he faced for his third save of the season.
Freshman lefthander Tom Thornton (2-1) suffered his first loss with the Irish, allowing three runs on nine hits and no walks (with three Ks).
Notre Dame entered the day with a 46-7 scoring edge in the second inning and added to that margin in the opener, pushing across three runs for the early lead. Kris Billmaier’s leadoff walk sparked the inning, with Cody Rizzo adding a hit-and-run single into left-center and Matt Macri dropping a full-count down the leftfield line for an RBI double. Steve Andres followed with a groundball to the left side and shortstop Bryan Spamer elected to throw home, with Rizzo beating the tag for a 2-0 lead. Greg Lopez followed with a clutch single to left-center on a 1-2 pitch, plating Macri for the three-run cushion.
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning of the nightcap but needed three runs in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie. The key inning included Stuart Rykaceski’s leadoff single and Casey Long’s one-out double, breaking the tie and ending Thornton’s day. David Cline kept the rally alive with a two-out, full-count walk versus closer J.P. Gagne, with Ben Copeland adding his own full-count walk before Mike Scanzano sent a two-run single up the middle.
The Irish cut into the lead with two runs in the seventh, thanks to three Panthers errors and singles from Macri and Steve Sollmann.
Sollmann and Javi Sanchez hit safely in both games, with each extending his hitting streak to eight games.
Pittsburgh 0-0-2 0-0-0 0 – 2 8 0
Notre Dame 0-3-0 1-0-1 X – 5 8 2
Joe Engel (L, 3-4), Adam Luckette (6) and Alex Rykaceski.
Chris Niesel (W, 5-1) and Javi Sanchez.
Doubles: Cody Rizzo (ND), Matt Macri (ND).
Pittsburgh 0-0-0 1-0-3 1-0-0 – 5 14 3
Notre Dame 0-0-0 0-1-0 2-0-0 – 3 4 2
Don Rhoten, Jimmy Blue (5; W, 4-1), Jeff Barnyak (7; SV, 3) and Alex Rykaceski.
Tom Thornton (L, 2-1), J.P. Gagne (6), Matt Laird (9) and Javi Sanchez
Doubles: Sanchez (ND), Casey Long (Pitt)