March 14, 2002
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Notre Dame freshmen continued to make a major impact at the Irish Baseball Classic, as Matt Macri smacked his first home run of the season and added an RBI triple while righthander Grant Johnson logged eight strong innings, as the Irish posted a 6-3 win over Southern Illinois in Thursday afternoon action at Wolff Stadium.
Notre Dame (7-6) – which has won 10 straight tournament games in San Antonio at the Irish Baseball Classic/Alamo Invitational – rode the strong pitching of the 6-6, 220-pound Johnson and used a four-run sixth inning to claim a 6-1 cushion.
Southern Illinois (10-3), which saw its eight-game winning streak come to an end, plated two runs in the ninth for the final margin. The Salukis next face Creighton on Friday at 1:30 CST – with the winner of that game moving on to battle Notre Dame in Saturday’s 4:00 p.m. championship game (Creighton beat Arkansas-Little Rock, 7-0, on Thursday night while SIU beat UALR on Wednesday, 2-0).
(Radio broadcast note: Notre Dame’s game vs. UALR on Friday will air on 1580 WHLY in South Bend, immediately following the hockey broadcast of the ND-Northern Michigan CCHA tournament game. First pitch is set for 6:30 EST in South Bend, with the hockey game starting at 4:00. Saturday’s IBC championship game then will air on WDND 1620, at 5:00 p.m. EST, with the hockey team possibly facing Michigan in the CCHA semifinals earlier in the day, with a 2:00 p.m. broadcast on 1620).
Macri nearly homered on an 0-1 fifth-inning pitch from freshman righthander Ryan Welch (with the ball hooking just outside the foul pole) before drilling the next pitch over the leftfield fence for his first home run of the season.
Notre Dame elected to rest sophomore second baseman Steve Sollmann (out indefinitely with a reaggravated quad injury), with versatile senior Matt Bok making his first career start at second base in place of Sollmann (Bok also has started at DH, outfield and catcher).
Johnson (1-1) held SIU to five hits and an unearned run in eight innings of work while also totaling six strikeouts, no walks and 11 groundball outs in his 93-pitch outing. He lowered his season ERA to 3.21 while his season totals also now include 22 strikeouts and just two walks (Irish starting pitchers have combined for 72 Ks and just 12 walks).
Notre Dame had opened the scoring with a run in the second, after Andrew Bushey’s leadoff single to right-center (on a 2-2 count) and Bok’s first-pitch double down the leftfield line, with Bushey scoring on the hit-and-run play.
The Irish answered SIU’s unearned run in the sixth with the crucial four-run bottom of the sixth, versus sophomore righthander Josh Joiner. The five-hit assault included four singles through the infield – by Bushey (left side, 0-1 pitch) and Bok (right, 1-0) to open the inning, followed by sophomore shortstop Javier Sanchez’s one-out, full-count hit through the left side and senior centerfielder Steve Stanley’s 2-0 single through the right (extending his season-opening hitting streak to 13 games).
Macri then worked to a 3-1 count before driving a triple down the line and off the rightfield wall, with Sanchez scoring on the play for the 5-1 lead (Stanley motored around but was tagged out at the plate, with the Irish contesting the call based on the new rule restricting blocking of a base without the ball). Macri scored moments later on a passed ball to cap the big inning.
The Salukis pushed across their unearned run in the sixth, after Cory Newman’s leadoff single up the middle and Ross Kozwan’s hard-hit single off Johnson’s glove, with the Irish pitcher scrambling to field the ball before throwing away the quick throw to first. Jeff Stanek followed with a sacrifice fly for SIU’s only run in eight innings versus Johnson.
Notes: Stanley has started every game of his ND career (201, all in CF), just three shy of matching the team record for consecutive games started (204, by Pat Pesavento from 1986-89) … Stanley (232) also is on the verge of the ND career hits record, just two shy of 1993 graduate Eric Danapilis and three behind Pesavento’s record total (296) … Stanley’s current 13-game hitting streak is the second-longest of his career, behind his 16-game hit streak during the 2000 season … Stanley has played every inning of the last 50 games (432.1 innings) … Bushey’s 2-for-4 day raised his season batting average to .441 while Stanley (1-for-4) dropped to .458 … ND owns an all-time record of 19-3 in the Irish Baseball Classic/Alamo Invitational, including 10 straight wins and a 17-1 record in the last 18 San Antonio tournament games.
Southern Illinois (10-3) 0-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-2 – 3 6 0
Notre Dame (7-6) 0-1-0 0-1-4 0-0-x – 6 10 1
Ryan Welch (L, 1-1), Josh Joiner (6) and Scott Hankey.
Grant Johnson (W, 2-1), Matt Laird (9) and Andrew Bushey.
Home Run: Matt Macri, ND (solo in 5th, 1st of season).
Triples: Macri (ND), Paul O’Toole (ND), Toby Barnett (SIU).
Doubles: Matt Bok (ND), Sal Frisella (SIU).