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Irish Ride Strong Start From Niesel And 14-Hit Attack In Advancing To BIG EAST Title Round With 9-2 Win Over St. John's

May 28, 2004

The 7th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (48-10) posted its 15th win in the last 16 games, defeating St. John’s, 9-2, in Friday’s winners-bracket game at the BIG EAST Tournament. Sophomores Matt Bransfield (RBI, R, 3B), Steve Andres (2 RBI, R, 3B, 2 2B, BB) and Greg Lopez) each had three hits to lead a 14-hit attack from their respective 3rd, 5th and 9th spots in the batting order while junior righthander Chris Niesel (7.1 IP, R, 9 H, 2 BB, 2 Ks) improved to 8-2 for the season and 21-3 in his career.

The Irish return to Commerce Bank Ballpark on Saturday for a 3:30 championship-round matchup versus the winner of Friday night’s game between SJU and Boston College. Notre Dame would clinch the title – and an unprecedented “three-peat” – by winning that game in the double-elimination format while the SJU/BC winner would have to beat the Irish twice (second game at 7:00, if necessary) to win the title.

Junior first baseman Matt Edwards – who stroked the game-ending single to beat BC on Thursday -continued to swing a hot bat, hitting 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, 2 runs scored and his 10th home run of the season.

Check back to tonight for another complete game recap, including postgame quotes. Postgame notes follow below:

Notre Dame Baseball Postgame Notes – vs. St. John’s (second round, BIG EAST Tournament; May 28, 2004)

* Notre Dame has won 15 of its last 16 games this season and now is 8-2 in its last 10 games at the BIG EAST Tournament, after going just 12-12 in its first six trips to the championship.

* The Irish will be looking to win an unprecedented third straight BIG EAST Championship title (no team has accomplished the feat in 19 previous BIG EAST tournaments) and could become the first BIG EAST champion to go through the tournament undefeated since Seton Hall did it in 2001 (also done seven other times, by SHU in 1987, Villanova in ’89, UConn in ’90, St. John’s in ’93 and ’97, Providence in ’99 and Rutgers in ’00).

* With three 2nd-inning runs today, the Irish extended their season domination of the inning to 55-10.

* Just two previous ND teams have won more games than the 2004 squad (48-10): the 2002 College World Series team (50-18) and the top-ranked 2001 squad (49-13-1) … the ’04 team’s current .828 win pct. would rank 4th-best in 112 seasons of Notre Dame baseball team and best since the 1910 team went 19-3 (.864).

* Junior RHP Chris Niesel (21-3) boosted his career win pct. to .875, still 2nd in the ND record book behind Herb Kelly’s .917 (22-2) during the 1912-14 seasons.

* Sophomore DH Matt Bransfield – who ranked among the BIG EAST power leaders all season – was left off the all-BIG EAST teams despite leading the league in RBI (only three of the league’s 26 previous RBI leaders/co-leaders have not been named all-BIG EAST, with each of those coming from 1985-93 when there was only one team named) … Bransfield went 3-for-5 from the 3-hole vs. SJU, with an early RBI single, a triple and run scored.

* The Irish now have scored in the 1st inning in 9 of the last 12 games.

* Notre Dame has three double-digit home run hitters – the “three Matt’s” (Macri with 12, Bransfield with 11, Edwards with 10) – for the first time since 1998 (prior to the change in bat restrictions that led to a nationwide dropoff in HRs) … ND’s top 1998 HR hitters included Brant Ust (18), Jeff Wagner (14) and J.J. Brock (13).

* Matt Macri’s stolen base today makes him the first ND player in the 10-year Mainieri era to post 12-plus home runs while also swiping a dozen bases or more in the same season (he has 12 of each).

* Sophomore SS Greg Lopez’s error was his first in 17 games and 81 fielding chances while his double-play partner Steve Sollmann made just his second error of the season.

* The Irish won by 5-plus runs for the 25th time this season.

* The Irish improved to 29-2 this season when scoring 7-plus runs, 31-1 when holding the opponent to 0-3 runs, 38-3 when outhitting the opponent and 25-3 when issuing 0-2 walks.

* Junior LF Steve Andres drew his team-leading 40th walk of the season while batting 3-for-5 from the 5-hole, with a triple, a pair of doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored.

* Notre Dame now is 26-5 in all games away from home this season.

* The Irish are 31-4 this season with Steve Sollmann in the lineup (15-6 when he was out due to injury).

* Today’s game marked ND’s 34th of the season with double-digit hits.

* The Irish batters now are one hit-by-pitch shy of 100 for the season.

* The 2nd-longest scoring streak in ND history now stands at 144 games (373 of 374).

* The Irish now are 192-59-1 during the past four seasons.

* Junior 3B Matt Macri logged his 49th error-free game of the season.

* ND’s 58 home runs are nearly double the 2003 team’s total (31).