April 3, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Matt Macri tripled twice and scored or drove in five runs in the 15-7 opener before his two singles in the 6-5 nightcap included the game-winner in the bottom of the 10th, as the fifth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team continued its torrid start with a doubleheader sweep of Villanova in a long Saturday of BIG EAST baseball action at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (21-3, 5-0 BIG EAST) reached 20 wins in fewer games than each of the program’s previous 93 teams, with only the 1910 squad (20-1) getting to 20 wins faster in the program’s 112-year history.
The victories were tempered by the loss of senior second baseman Steve Sollmann in the fifth inning of the seven-inning opener. Sollmann collided with a teammate while chasing a wind-blown ball into shallow right field and suffered a fractured jaw. After a lengthy delay, the preseason BIG EAST player of the year was transported to a local hospital and will be sidelined indefinitely pending further examination.
Sollmann had doubled and scored as part of Notre Dame’s highest-scoring inning of the season in the 8-run bottom of the 2nd and the Irish still led 10-3 at the time of the injury delay. Villanova (17-7-1, 3-2) then scored three times in the 6th to forge an 11-6 deficit but Notre Dame answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Irish players then remained focused on the task at hand in the nightcap, opening leads of 4-2 and 5-3 before winning in the 10th on Macri’s single into left field.
Notre Dame will take aim at its ninth straight victory in the series finale, slated for Sunday at 12:05 p.m. Junior righthander Grant Johnson (1.29, 0-0, 7 IP, 5 Ks, 5 BB, 10 H) is the probable Irish starter while freshman righthander Kevin Mulvey (4.98, 2-2, 34.1 IP, 25 Ks, 15 BB, 32 H) is the likely starter for the Wildcats.
Macri – who filled Sollmann’s No. 2 spot in the batting order during the second game – hit 4-for-7 in the doubleheader with 3 RBI and 5 runs scored. The junior third baseman also posted his 17th and 18th error-free games of the season at the hot corner and reached base on three other plate appearances, with a pair of walks and another time hit-by-pitch.
Sophomore rightfielder Craig Cooper played a lead to role in the second game, including his leadoff walk on a 3-1 pitch in the bottom of the 10th. Second baseman Zach Sisko – subbing for his classmate Sollmann – then bunted Cooper to second and junior righthander Mike Grodecki (2-2) issued an intentional walk to Greg Lopez, the final batter he faced in three innings of work.
Villanova first baseman and senior righthander Adrian Schau then took the mound to face Macri, who fouled off the first two pitches before taking a ball, followed by two more foul tips and ball-2. Macri fouled off a third 2-strike pitch before sending the eighth pitch of the at-bat between the line and the leftfielder – with the speedy Cooper scoring easily for the 6-5 win.
The Wildcats had a chance in the top of the inning when fifth-year veteran Brian Newbold stroked a leadoff double up the middle. Sophomore closer Ryan Doherty (3-0) then took the hill and the 7-foot-1 righthander saw Schau execute a sacrifice bunt to put the go-ahead run on third. But Sisko snared a linedrive off the bat of Brian Trotta and Doherty induced a rally-ending groundout to first baseman Matt Edwards to preserve the 5-5 score.
Villanova had claimed a 1st-inning lead in the nightcap when a Danny Poydenis single through the left side played Angelo Petracca. The Irish then tied the game with a 2-out rally in the 2nd. Freshman righthander Mike Loree nearly was out of the inning but hit Javi Sanchez with a 1-2 pitch. Cooper then delivered an opposite-field hit on a 2-2 count, completing the perfently-excuted hit-and-run with a sharp single into right field (Sanchez then scored on passed ball).
VU’s Kris Malloy drew a full-count walk in the 3rd and swiped two bases before scoring on a wild pitch for a 2-1 lead. But the Irish surged to a 4-2 lead in the 4th, sparked by Cooper’s leadoff single that bounced past the shortstop Trotta. Sisko high chopper then bounced off the glove of leaping second baseman Craig Mirsky and the runners moved up on Danny Dressman’s groundout before Macri’s five-pitch walk loaded the bases. A pair of wild pitches forced home two runs, Edwards walked on a full count and sophomore leftfielder Steve Andres stroked an 0-1 pitch into right-center for the two-run cushion.
The Wildcats crept closer when Newbold sent a solo shot down the leftfield line, with the Irish answering that run in the bottom of the 6th thanks to one-out walks by Macri and Edwards and sophomore DH Matt Bransfield’s clutch 2-out single up the middle on a 2-2 pitch.
Trotta’s two-run linedrive – again down the rightfield line – tied the game in the 8th, leading to the extra inning.
Notre Dame sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton had a solid start, allowing two runs, four hits and one walk in five innings of work (his 91 pitches included 59 strikes and one strikeout). Senior lefthander Joe Thaman and freshman righthander Dan Kapala then preceded Doherty to the mound, with Kapala striking out two and rolling up a groundout for a 1-2-3 top of the 9th.
Loree allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks, with five Ks in 4.0 innings of work. Grodecki’s hard-luck loss included just one hit and two walks in 3.0 innings (plus a K).
Andres launched his fourth home run of the season to open ND’s 8-run 2nd inning of the opener. The big inning also included a three-run blast from Bransfield (his fifth HR of the season, all coming in the last nine games) plus two singles by Sanchez (en route to a 4-for-4 game), Macri’s first of two triples, one of Sollmann’s two doubles, an Edwards walk, a single from sophomore rightfielder Cody Rizzo and three errors that made five of the runs unearned. Junior righthander Nick Allen (2-1) was forced from the game with two outs in the innings, after allowing seven hits and one walk in the brief stint (2 Ks).
Junior righthander Chris Niesel (4-1) picked up the opening win despite being credited for six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks. Niesel – who logged 107 pitches in his five-plus innings – struck out five Wildcats batters and now has totaled 20 Ks with just three walks in three career appearances vs. Villanova.
Notre Dame slammed the door shut in the opener with four runs in the 6th versus sophomore lefthander Jake Wolff. Macri’s second triple of the day came on the heels of singles from Bransfield and Sanchez, with Dressman and Edwards then adding RBI doubles.
NOTES – ND’s efficient offense in the opener (5-of-6 leadoff batters reached, 8-for-20 batting with runners in scoring position, 4-for-10 with 2 outs, including five 2-out RBI; 5-of-6 leadoff batters) yielded 15 runs with just 7 runners left on base … the Irish could have used some of that clutch hitting in game two (12 LOB; just 4-of-10 leadoff men reached, 3-for-14 batting with RBI opp’s ) … ND’s game-1 pitchers did not allow a 2-out hit while the game-2 staff held Villanova to 1-for-8 batting with runners in scoring position (after allowing 5-of-10 leadoff batters to reach) … ND owns just a 14-10 scoring edge in the 1st inning but has dominated the 2nd (25-3) … the Irish now are 60-8 during the month of April over the past four seasons (’01-’04) … Sollmann’s recent surge had included batting 10-for-21 since dropping down to the 2-hole (last 6 GP) … Sanchez hit 5-for-8 in the doubleheader, after batting just 4-for-24 in six previous games vs. Villanova … ND now leads the Villanova series 19-5 (10-0 at Eck Stadium) … the Irish have his 16 HRs in the last 11 games (26 overall in 24 GP) … ND is 48-7 in its last 55 games at The Eck … the Irish have scored in 108 straight games, 337 of the last 338 and 580 of 584 in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era … ND has clinched winning the series with VU, the program’s 57th series victory to go along with nine even series in 75 all-time (the Irish have lost just nine series in nine BE seasons) … since an 0-4 start in ’02, ND is 39-11 in its last 50 BIG EAST games … the Irish have lost just one BIG EAST series in the last 25 at Eck Stadium (22 series wins, 2 even) – with an all-time mark of 32 BIG EAST series wins at the Eck (3 loss, 4 even) … Lopez made an error in the opener but the Irish SS posted his 18th error-free games of the season in the nightcap.
Villanova 0-0-0 3-0-3 1 – 7 10 4
Notre Dame. 0-8-2 0-1-4 X – 15 16 2
Nick Allen (L, 2-1), Ted Aust (2), Jake Wolff (5) and Jim Gillin.
Home Runs: Steve Andres, ND (solo in 2nd; 3rd of season); Matt Bransfield, ND (2 on in 2nd; 5th of season).
Triples: Matt Macri 2 (ND).
Doubles: Danny Dressman (ND), Steve Sollmann 2 (ND), Matt Edwards (ND), Javi Sanchez (ND).
Villanova (17-7-1, 3-2 BIG EAST) 1-0-1 0-0-1 0-2-0 0 – 5 8 1
Notre Dame (21-3, 5-0 BIG EAST) 0-1-0 3-0-1 0-0-0 1 – 6 8 2
Nick Loree, Mike Ciccotelli (5), Mike Grodecki (7; L, 2-2), Adrian Schau (10) and Andy Wendle, Kelly Pickel.
Tom Thornton, Joe Thaman (6), Dan Kapala (9), Ryan Doherty (10; W, 3-0) and Javi Sanchez.
Home Runs: Brian Newbold, VILL (solo in 6th, 2nd of season); Brian Trotta, VILL (1 on in 8th, 1st of season)
Doubles: Steve Andres (ND), Angel Petracca (VILL), Newbold (VILL).