March 23, 2003
Plymouth Meeting, Pa. – Notre Dame and Villanova both had chances at winning Sunday’s extra-inning marathon but the homestanding Wildcats ultimately were the first to cash in their chance in the BIG EAST opener for both teams, scoring in the 13th inning of the seven-inning opener in a planned doubleheader. The late finish – in the first game ever at Villanova Ballpark at the Plymouth Community Center – led to the series format being altered once again, with the teams now slated to play the final two games on Monday beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Notre Dame (9-6, 0-1) racked up 19 baserunners but stranded 15 on base while hitting into a pair of double plays. The loss spoiled another strong outing from sophomore righthander Chris Niesel, who totaled a career-best 11 strikeouts with no walks while scattering five hits and allowing a pair of second-inning runs in 7.1 innings.
Villanova (5-8, 1-0) nearly won in the 11th but freshman leftfielder Craig Cooper threw out Brian Trotta trying to score from second base on a shallow two-outDanny Poydenis’ single. Notre Dame junior first baseman Joe Thaman then led off the 12th with a triple to the right-center gap but was left stranded when the shortstop Trotta snared Brennan Grogan’s linedrive and flicked the ball to third for the rally-ending double play.
The Wildcats threatened again in the 13th, with a one-out Ryan Crammer single, a passed ball and wild pitch putting the winning run at third. J.P. Gagne – in his sixth inning of relief – then issued a two-out intentional walk to leadoff batter Chris Graziano (just as he had done in the 11th) and Poydenis delivered again with the game-ending single that skipped inside the third-base bag.
Grogan plated classmate Cody Rizzo to account for both of the Irish runs, with the RBI coming on a second-inning groundout and a sixth-inning single.
Gagne’s hard-luck loss included four strikeouts and five hits allowed in 5.2 innings, with his only walks coming on the pair of intentional passes to Graziano.
Villanova senior righthander Tom Kandybowicz worked out of several jams in the first 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and one walk with seven Ks before yielding to Adrian Schau (the first of three VU relievers).
Niesel – who posted 10 Ks vs. Southern Illinois in his freshman-year debut – became the 10th Notre Dame pitcher ever to post multiple double-digit strikeout games. His season stats now include a 3.24 ERA and just two decisions in five starts (1-1), plus a 6.4 K-to-walk ratio (32/5), a .198 opponent batting average and 25 hits allowed in 33.1 innings.
The Irish have failed to provide Niesel with more than three runs in each of his last three starts (3-1 vs. Vanderbilt, 3-2 vs. Eastern Illinois, 2-3 vs. Villanova – over a total of 33 innings) but he has kept Notre Dame in those games with an 0.77 ERA, 29 Ks, just two walks and 10 hits allowed (.123 opp. avg.) in 23.1 innings during those games.
Notre Dame 0-0-1 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 0 – 2 10 0
Villanova 0-2-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1 – 3 10 3
Chris Niesel, J.P. Gagne (8; L, 2-3) and Javi Sanchez.
Tom Kandybowicz, Adrian Schau (7), Mike Ciccotelli (11), Dan Farino (12; W, 1-1) and Greg Fater, Marshall Canosa (12).
Triple: Joe Thaman (ND).
Doubles: Matt Macri (ND), Cody Rizzo (ND), Brian Trotta 2 (VU).