April 21, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Zach Sisko is proving to be more than an adequate backup for injured classmate and All-American Steve Sollmann, with the senior second baseman surging atop the team batting charts after a 4-for-5 game that led the fourth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team in Wednesday night’s 9-3 win over visiting Toledo.
Notre Dame (31-5) – winners of five straight and 19 of its last 21 – continued its recent offensive barrage by racking up 27 baserunners while scoring nine-plus runs for the fifth straight game, with a 64-25 scoring edge during that span (13-5 average score). The Irish also enjoyed one of their more productive early-offense games, scoring twice in the 1st inning and then four times in the 2nd for an early 6-1 lead.
The Irish maintained the second-best winning percentage (.861) among 287 Division I teams and now are part of a four-way tie for fewest losses in the nation, with Texas (39-5), Stanford (30-5) and Albany (24-5).
Junior third baseman Matt Macri’s sixth home run of the season produced the early 2-0 lead while sophomore rightfielder Cody Rizzo became the 12th Notre Dame player to hit a home run this season, with a solo shot in the 5th.
Sisko had three singles and a double in his first four trips to the plate, giving the fourth-year walk-on hits in five straight at-bats (starting with the tie-breaking grand slam in Sunday’s series finale at Georgetown). The 6-2, 205-pound lefthanded hitter totaled just eight hits during limited duty in the 2001-03 seasons but he nearly has doubled that total this season, batting 15-for-38 to move atop the team batting charts at .389.
In the last four games alone (9-for-15), Sisko has eclipsed his previous career hit total while collecting 6 RBI and scoring 5 runs (he totaled 5 RBI and 3 runs in the ’01-’03 seasons).
Sisko had the change to become Notre Dame’s first walk-on with a five-hit game since 1998 (when 1B Dan Leatherman went 5-for-5, vs. … Toledo) – but he grounded into a fielder’s choice in the 8th inning.
Freshman righthander Jess Stewart improved to 5-0 as the starter in a planned rotation, allowing three runs on five hits and one walk over 4.0 innings. Six relievers then closed out the game for the Irish, with the team ERA dipping to 3.49.
The Irish entered the week as one of three teams ranked among the national top-30 in staff ERA (20th) and team batting average (27th at .319, now .321 after 14 hits vs. the Rockets).
Sophomore closer Ryan Doherty tossed a scoreless 9th, dropping his season ERA to 0.47 while his opponent batting average stands at .088 (5-for-61). Doherty extended several noteworthy streaks by not allowing a run in his last 14 innings (over 13 appearances; also no earned runs allowed in last 14 outings/15 IP) while opponents have yet to register a hit vs. the 7-foot-1, 220-pounder in the last 9.1 innings (9 GP). The BIG EAST saves leader (6) also has allowed just 1-of-16 inherited baserunners to score in the ’04 season, including 15 straight who have been forced out or left on base (dating back to an SIU inherited runner that scored vs. Doherty in San Antonio on March 6).
Wednesday’s outing – which included a walk and hit batter – was a microcosm of Doherty’s season, which has seen him create some jams (7 BB and 3 HBP, in 19 IP) before working out of trouble. His other season totals now include 25 strikeouts and just three extra-base hits (all doubles), with no home runs allowed in his 47.2 career innings with the Irish.
Macri entered the day with a .457 career batting average at Eck Stadium (compared to just .229 in all road games, including 2-for-13 last weekend at Georgetown) and he improved that home batting mark after a 3-for-5 game vs. Toledo with 5 RBI (one shy of his career-best, set earlier this season vs. Minnesota).
Freshman centerfielder Danny Dressman scored three times after a pair of hits and walk, extending his season-best hitting streak to five games. Dressman sparked the Irish out of the gate by poking an opposite-field single into left field (on a 3-1 pitch) and Macri followed moments later with his own hit the other way, sending an 0-1 pitch down the rightfield line and over the fence for his 11th career home run in 11 games with the Irish.
Notre Dame then continued its 2nd-inning domination (now 35-5), with Sisko starting things on a 1-0 single into right field. An errant pickoff throw from freshman righthander Greg Gompf preceded sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez’s single to a similar spot, with the rightfielder misplaying the ball for the second error of the inning.
Dressman then delivered a clutch single up the middle on an 0-2 pitch (plating Sisko) and Macri reached on a two-base fielding error by the third baseman (Lopez scored on the play). Junior first baseman Matt Edwards ended Gompf’s night with a double off the wall in deep left-center, chasing home two more runs for the 6-1 lead.
Toledo (10-24) had cut the lead to 6-3 in the 5th before Rizzo came through with two outs, delivering yet another 2-strike hit (1-2) with his solo shot over the leftfield fence. It was Rizzo’s first home in his last 36 games played with the Irish, dating back to the opening game at Virginia Tech late in the 2003 season (when he totaled 4 HRs).
The Irish added another run in the 6th, after Dressman walked and motored all the way around on Macri’s double over the centerfielder’s head. Sisko then opened the bottom of the 7th with his own double over the rightfielder’s head, later scoring on Macri’s two-out single to center.
Updated Team Notes – The other six teams that entered the week ranked in the NCAA top-30 for team batting avg. and staff ERA included Wichita State, LSU, Florida Atlantic, South Carolina, Cal Poly and East Carolina …when making a statistical comparison of the current teams ranked among the national top 25 (in at least one of the four polls, a total of 30 teams), only two teams own a better on-base pct than ND’s .425 (the College of Charleston’s .450 and Arizona State’s .432) … the Irish also own the 9th-best “OBS” (combined on-base pct. and slugging pct.) among teams ranked in a national top-25 poll (.902), behind College of Charleston (.966), East Carolina (.965), Southern Miss (.951), South Carolina (.944), Wichita State (.942), Stanford (.936), Miami (.936) and LSU (.922) … finally, a key focus for ND’s ’04 offense has been its margin of walks plus hit-by-pitch minus strikeouts (now +32), with only ASU (+43) and Tennessee (+40) owning better margins among the 30 teams currently ranked in the top-25 of a national poll (only two other teams among those 30 own a positive margin) … the Irish totaled just 22 first-inning runs during the first 31 games of the season but now have crossed the plate nine times in the 1st inning during the last five games … ND’s 37 HRs now have come from 12 different players (Matt Bransfield’s 8, Macri’s 6, 5 from both Steve Andres and Edwards, Craig Cooper’s 4, a pair from both Lopez and Sollmann, and single shots from Sisko, Rizzo, Mike Dury, Javi Sanchez and Brennan Grogan) … the ’03 team included just 8 long-ball hitters who combined for 31 HRs …Rizzo was hit by a pitch for the 15th time this season, matching the 2nd-most ever by an ND player (trailing his own 28 HBPs in ’03) while pushing his ND career HBP record to 43 … Edwards (2-for-4) bumped his season batting avg. to .318 and is hitting 10-for-20 in his last 5 games.
Toledo (10-24) 010 200 0-0-0 – 3 8 4
#4 Notre Dame (31-5) 240 011 1-0-0 – 9 14 2
Greg Gompf (L, 2-4), Derek Overcashier (2), Raul Lopez (6), Ben Lovell (8) and Nick Lance.
Home Runs: Matt Macri, ND (1 on in 5th; 6th of season); Aaron Rouser, TOL (solo in 4th; 7th of season); Cody Rizzo, ND (solo in 5th; 1st of season).
Triples: Chris Arvay (TOL).
Doubles: Macri (ND), Matt Edwards (ND), Zach Sisko (ND), Matt Ruth (TOL).