May 29, 2004
The Notre Dame baseball team managed just a 12-12 record in its first six trips to the BIG EAST Championship but the last three visits have ended with the Irish hoisting the big trophy, as seventh-ranked Notre Dame became the first team ever to win three straight BIG EAST baseball tournament titles after riding five home runs to Saturday’s 11-5 win over Boston College.
(Note: the Irish contingent is headed off to dinner but check back later to und.com for a complete recap, including quotes from Paul Mainieri, tournament MVP Matt Macri, Craig Cooper, Tom Thornton and Ryan Doherty).
Notre Dame (49-10) now enters the NCAAs with the nation’s second-most victories and second-best winning percentage (.831), trailing only Texas (50-13) and Oral Roberts (48-9, .842) in those respective categories. Texas was able to play three extra regular-season games (59 total) due to three exempted games at Hawaii while ORU won the Mid-Continent Conference title. East Carolina had entered the week with a 47-9 record but went 1-2 at the Conference USA Tournament.
The Irish enter the NCAAs with wins in 16 of their last 17 games, with the 49 wins one shy of the team record set by the 2002 College World Series team. Notre Dame also has won nine of its last 11 games at Commerce Bank Ballpark in the BIG EAST Tournament.
Junior third baseman Matt Macri (3-for-5, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) took home the tournament MVP honors while joining sophomore rightfielder Craig Cooper in hitting a pair of home runs in the title game. Sophomore DH Matt Bransfield – the BIG EAST RBI leader who was overlooked in the all-BIG EAST voting – also launched a home run as part of Notre Dame’s crushing six runs in the top of the 1st (marking the 10th time in the last 13 games that the Irish have scored in the 1st).
Sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton (8-2) worked through some bumpy moments to pick up the win (7 IP, 8 H, 5 R/3 ER, BB, HB, 3 Ks), with Jeff Samardzija and Ryan Doherty each throwing an inning to close out the game.
Half of Notre Dame’s 10 hits left the yard, pushing the team’s home run total to 63 (more than double the 2003 team’s HR total of 31). The Irish totaled 15 other baserunners, including seven who reached on walks and five who were hit-by-pitch (pushing ND’s season total to 104 HBPs, good for 6th in NCAA history).
The NCAA will unveil the 16 regional sites tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) and announced today that the sites will be revealed on ESPN, between coverage of game 11 and game 12 from the Women’s College World Series (approximately 3:10 EDT, 2:10 in South Bend).
The 64-team field, pairings and top-8 national seeds then will be announced Monday on ESPN2 (noon EDT, 11:00 a.m. in South Bend).