March 15, 2003
Jacksonville, Fla. – The 18th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team continued to use the combination of a balanced hitting attack and strong starting pitching as the Irish closed Kennel Club Classic play with a 10-3 win over Creighton, in Sunday afternoon action at Jacksonville University’s Brest Field.
Notre Dame (9-5) – winners of seven of its last eight, including a 6-1 record during the Spring Break trip – racked up 14 hits, led by four players with multiple hits.
Sophomore righthander John Axford (3-0) added to his strong start to the 2003 season, recovering from a pair of first-inning runs en route to a six-inning stint that included eight strikeouts, five hits, two walks, three wild pitches and a hit batter. His season stats in four starts now include a 2.63 ERA, 20 Ks and just seven walks in 24 innings (with a .258 opponent batting average).
Creighton (3-13) scored twice on solo home runs, with Gabe Lapito leading the park in the top of the first and Matt Daegas adding his own first home run of the season in the seventh. Senior righthander Chris Appuhn (0-4) took the loss, after allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits over 3.2 innings.
Sophomore first baseman Matt Edwards (3-for-4, 3 RBI, R) and senior rightfielder Kris Billmaier (2-for-2, 2 RBI, R, 2 BB) continued to do damage for the Irish from their respective No. 3 and cleanup spots while junior second baseman Steve Sollmann (3-for-5, RBI, 2 R) and freshman DH Cody Rizzo (2-for-3, R) also collected multiple hits, with freshman centerfielder Brennan Grogan scoring three runs from the 2-hole.
Senior righthanders Matt Laird and Brandon Viloria combined with sophomore Martin Vergara to log the final three innings and cap a strong week for the Irish pitching staff.
Notre Dame matched Creighton with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, sparked by singles from Sollmann and Grogan, followed by Edwards’s double to the right-center gap and Billmaier’s sacrifice fly. The Irish snatched the with four more runs one inning later, as Appuhn plunked Rizzo and Lopez before singles from Sollmann, Edwards and Billmaier combined with an infield fielding error and wild pitch to produce the big inning.
The lead grew to 7-3 in the seventh, after a Craig Cooper walk, Rizzo’s double down the rightfield line and a run-scoring groundout from Greg Lopez. The Irish then capped the scoring with three runs in the eighth, with walks from Grogan and Billmaier sandwiched around Edward’s double over the centerfielder’s head (the other runs scored on a wild pitch and groundout).
SPRING BREAK WRAPUP – ND hit .307 in the Kennel Club Classic, led by Sollmann (.482, 13-for-27, 9 R, 3B, 2B, 6 RBI, 4 BB, K, 4-6 SB, 2 SAC), Edwards (.393, 11-for-28, 5 R, HR, 3 2B, 9 RBI, BB, 3 HBP, 2 Ks), Billmaier (.393, 11-for-28, 6 R, 3B, 4 2B, 6 RBI, 2 BB, HBP, K, 2 SF), and junior C Javi Sanchez (.407, 11-for-27, 4 R, HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB, HBP, K, SB) … the Irish pitchers posted a 2.37 ERA for the week, with a .185 opponent batting average, 59 Ks, 14 walks and 41 hits allowed in 64.2 IP … ND totaled nine errors and a .967 fielding pct. in the seven games … the Irish are 19-5 in the state of Florida during the last four seasons, including 7-1 at the 2000 Kennel Club Classic (also 1-1 at the 2001 Devil Rays Classic, 3-1 at the ’02 Homestead Challenge and 2-1 at Florida State in the ’02 NCAA Super Regional series.
SEASON STAT UPDATES – The ND offense heads into next week’s BIG EAST series at Villanova with a .303 team batting average, 87 runs, 8 home runs, 5 triples and 28 doubles, 84 Ks, 29 BB, 18-26 SB and .968 fielding (18 Es) … top hitters now include Sollmann (.429, 15 R, HR, 2 3B, 2 2B, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 9 SB), Edwards (.392, 9 R, HR, 4 2B, 13 RBI, 3 BB), Billmaier (.361, 12 R, 3 HR, 3B, 5 2B, 15 RBI, 2 BB) and Sanchez (.333, 6 R, HR, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 4 BB) … the Irish pitchers have dropped the staff ERA to 4.76, with a .257 opponent batting average, 89 Ks, 54 BB and 125 hits allowed in 128.2 innings.
RECORD BOOK NOTES – Sollmann swiped the 38th stolen base of his career, tying Matt Haas (’91-’94) and Paul Failla (’92-’94) for 8th in the ND record book, while boosting his career batting average to .369 – which would rank 5th in ND history, behind the center-field quartet of his brother Scott Sollmann (.372), former teammate Steve Stanley (.384), Eric Danapilis (.405) and Dan Peltier (.406) … Viloria lowered his career ERA to 2.67 (6th-best in ND history) while his career walk average now stands at 1.47 BB per 9 IP (below Alan Walania’s ND record of 1.64) … senior RHP J.P. Gagne logged his 71st career outing on Friday night vs. Navy, tying Tom Price for 4th in ND history and trailing only Chris Michalak (92 GP), Aaron Heilman (83) and Mike Coffey (73) … Gagne’s 250.2 career innings are 4.1 shy of cracking that ND top-10 list.
Creighton 2-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 – 3 7 1
Notre Dame 2-4-0 0-0-0 1-3-X – 10 14 1
Chris Appuhn (L, 0-4), Jeff Daneff (4), Matt Garland (7), Adrian Rider (8) and B.J. Schumacher.
John Axford (W, 3-0), Matt Laird (7), Brandon Viloria (8), Martin Vergara (9) and Javi Sanchez, Steve Andres (9).
Home Runs: Gabe Lapito, CU (solo in 1st; 1st of season); Matt Daegas, CU (solo in 7th, 1st of season).
Doubles: Matt Edwards 2 (ND), Kris Billmaier (ND), Cody Rizzo (ND), Ryan Fitzgerald (CU).