March 22, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Second baseman Brett Lilley became the first Notre Dame freshman ever to collect five hits in a home opener while leading the Notre Dame baseball team to a 10-4 win over Cincinnati, in Tuesday-night action at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (8-9) faced a brief 2-1 deficit in the top of the 4th before Craig Cooper’s leadoff home run sparked five Irish runs in the bottom of the inning. Lilley’s 5-for-5 day led a 15-hit attack, with senior first baseman Matt Edwards (2-for-4, 3 RBI), sophomore DH Mike Dury (2-for-5, RBI, R) and junior shortstop Greg Lopez (2-for-4, 2 R) adding multiple-hit games.
Cincinnati (8-9) cashed in four Notre Dame errors by scoring three unearned runs but the Bearcats could not answer Notre Dame’s big inning in the 4th.
Freshman lefthander Wade Korpi (1-0) picked up the win in a planned rotation, after allowing one hit in a shutout top of the 5th. Korpi was the third of seven relievers who followed sophomore righthander Derik Olvey’s two innings of work.
Lilley is the 29th Notre Dame player on record to record five-plus hits in a game (done 31 total times) and is just the second to do so in a home opener. Leftfielder Allen Greene needed extra innings to complete the feat during the home opener of his sophomore season in 1997, batting 5-for-6 in an 8-7, 12-inning win over IUPUI.
The 5-foot-7 Lilley joins another short list as one of four Notre Dame freshmen ever to post a five-hit game at any time in their debut season. Current sophomore catcher Sean Gaston went 5-for-6 early in the 2004 season vs. Florida Memorial (at FAU) while centerfielder Scott Sollmann hit 5-for-6 at Purdue in his freshman season (5/10/94) and first baseman Joe Binkiewicz had a 5-for-5 game vs. Dayton as a rookie (5/20/89). Each of the above four players is a lefthanded hitter – in fact, 10 of the past 17 Irish players to get five-plus hits in a game have been lefthanded or switch-hitters. Starting with Steve Stanley late in the 2001 season, five of the past seven to do so have hit from the left side (also Brian Stavisky and Paul O’Toole in ’02 and Gaston in ’04, plus righthanders Steve Sollmann in ’02 and Matt Macri in ’04).
Sollmann (6-for-7 vs. South Alabama in the 2002 NCAA regionals) and his former teammate Alec Porzel (6-for-6 vs. Pittsburgh, in 2001) share the Notre Dame record for hits in a game.
Olvey would have been in line for the win after striking out two and allowing one hit in the first two innings – but the visitors claimed their short lead in the 4th.
Senior righthander Justin Minges (0-1) suffered the loss, after allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits, a walk and two wild pitches in 3.2 innings (with a pair of Ks).
Notre Dame added another run-scoring 1st inning to its season total. Leadoff batter Alex Nettey struck out but reached base when catcher Jim Olds threw errantly and hit Nettey in the back as he ran down the line. Lilley then sent a 1-0 pitch up the middle and Edwards drove a linedrive into center field for the sacrifice fly.
Lilley collected his second hit of the game in the 3rd, beating out a one-out groundball to the shortstop on a 1-1 count.
Cincinnati claimed the lead versus the second Irish reliever, freshman righthander Joey Williamson, to open the 4th inning. Williamson hit the first two batters, who moved up a sacrifice bunt, before a groundball to the right side tied the game. A throwing error by Lopez then allowed the go-ahead run to score unearned but the Irish reclaimed the lead moments later when Cooper pulled a first-pitch offering down the leftfield line for his third home run of the season and 13th of his career.
The rest of Notre Dame’s big inning came with two outs, starting with Lopez’s single through the right side on a 2-1 pitch. Freshman third baseman Ross Brezovsky then walked on five pitches and the runners moved up on a wild pitch before junior centerfielder Alex Nettey came through in the clutch, sending an 0-2 pitch into center field for a two-run single and a 4-2 lead. A stolen base and wild pitch preceded Lilley’s single up the middle on a 2-0 pitch, ending the night for Minges. Lilley then swiped second base and Edwards greeted sophomore righthander David Thoebald with an RBI chopper over the left side of the infield for the 6-2 cushion.
Lopez hit a one-out single up the middle in the 6th, moved up on a groundout and came around to score on Lilley’s own single up the middle (both hits came on 1-2 pitches).
The Irish stretched to a 9-2 cushion in the 7th, thanks to Cooper’s one-out walk and a double pulled down the line from the switch-hitting Dury. The speedy Cooper motored all the way home on the play and Dury took third on the throw before scoring on Tony Langford’s rightside groundout.
Cody Rizzo sent a full-count single through the left side in the bottom of the 8th and stole second before Lilley dug in for his shot at the rare five-hit home opener. The 2-hole hitter worked to a 1-1 count and dropped a single into center field, with Edwards then pulling a double into the leftfield corner for the 10-4 final margin (Cincinnati had scored twice in the top of the 8th).
Cincinnati (8-9) 0-0-0 2-0-0 0-2-0 – 4 6 1
Notre Dame (8-9) 1-0-0 5-0-1 2-1-X – 10 15 4
Justin Minges (L, 0-1), David Thoebald (4), Mike Foley (7), A.J. Upton (8) and Jim Olds, Neall French (5).
Derik Olvey, Scott Bickford (3), Joey Williamson (4; W, 1-1), Jess Stewart (6), David Gruener (7), Dan Kapala (8), Tyler Jones (9) and Sean Gaston, Nick Mainieri (9).
Home Run: Craig Cooper, ND (solo in 4th; 3rd of season, 13th of career).
Doubles: Mike Dury (ND), Matt Edwards (ND), LaFringe Hayes (CIN).