March 29, 2003
Sophomore righthanders Chris Niesel and John Axford added to Notre Dame’s string of strong pitching starts while nine different ND players scored in the sixth inning of the nightcap as the 22nd-ranked Irish swept a BIG EAST doubleheader from visiting Georgetown, 6-2 and 13-3, in Saturday action at Eck Stadium.
The opening win represented the 700th career coaching victory for Notre Dame’s ninth-year head coach Paul Mainieri (now in his 21st season overall) – just 135 games removed from his 600th win.
Notre Dame (15-6, 4-1 BIG EAST) – winners of 13 of its last 15 – rode Niesel to a near-shutout in the seven-inning opener, with Georgetown (6-14, 1-7) using a pair of two-out hits to plate its only runs of the game in the top of the seventh. The Irish then broke open a 4-2 game in the nightcap, sending 14 batters to the plate in the nine-run bottom of the sixth.
Niesel (2-1) recorded all but two of his 21 outs via strikeouts (9), groundball outs (8) or infield popups (2), with six hits and one walk allowed in his 95-pitch outing. Axford (5-0) logged six innings in the nightcap, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and five walks while posting eight strikeouts and retiring nine of the final 10 batters he faced (six via Ks, including the final four) in a 110-pitch stint.
Steve Sollmann’s 12th multi-hit game of the season led the Irish in the second game, with the junior second baseman batting 4-for-4 while accounting for more than half of his team’s runs (3 RBI, 4 runs), plus a career-best three stolen bases. Senior rightfielder Kris Billmaier had three doubles and a pair of RBI in the opener.
The Irish used four runs in the fourth inning to claim a 6-0 lead in the opener. The key inning included singles from Cody Rizzo and Brennan Grogan, a walk from fellow freshman Craig Cooper, a two-run double off the bat of sophomore Matt Edwards (who totaled 7 RBI in the doubleheader), a wild pitch and Billmaier’s RBI double down the rightfield line.
The seven-hit, three-walk outburst in the sixth inning of the nightcap included Rizzo’s leadoff base on balls, six consecutive one-out singles – by Greg Lopez, Sollmann (RBI), Grogan, Edwards (RBI), Billmaier and Javi Sanchez – plus Matt Macri’s bases-loaded walk, a two-out dropped fly ball, a full-count walk by Lopez and Sollmann’s two-run double down the rightfield line. Three GU pitchers also combined for three wild pitches and a balk in the big inning.
NOTES: Axford improved to 10-2 in his ND career while lowering his season ERA to 2.31, with a .222 opponent batting avg. … Niesel – 24-2 in his last 26 decisions (dating back to Aquinas HS, 6-1 at ND) – dropped his season ERA to 3.12 with 41 Ks, just 6 walks (in 40.1 IP) and a .204 opponent batting avg. that would rank 6th in the ND record book … since suffering the only loss of his college career vs. Nebraska on Feb. 28, Niesel’s last four outings have featured a 1.19 ERA, .150 opp. batting and nearly a 13-to-1 K-to-walk ratio (38/3) in 30.1 innings … Axford (3rd), Niesel (8th) and Sunday’s starter – senior RHP Ryan Kalita (9th, 3.27) each entered the week ranked among the top-10 BIG EAST players with the best ERAs … those three have combined for a 25-3 career record with the Irish (Kalita is 9-0) … the ND staff ERA continues to drop (3.73 overall, 1.81 in five BIG EAST games) after a rocky start, with the current 13-2 run featuring a 1.92 staff ERA, .204 opp. batting and a 3.6 K-to-walk ratio (141/39) … ND made just two errors in the doubleheader, including its seventh error-free game of the season (the Irish lead the BIG EAST with a .968 overall fielding pct.) … Sollmann has swiped 16 bases (20 att.) in 21 games, already halfway to becoming just the fifth ND player ever to total 30 SBs in a season (his brother Scott totaled an ND-record 52 SBs in 1996) … ND has compiled its current 13-2 run despite totaling just two traditional home runs (by Edwards and Sanchez, plus Sollmann’s inside-the-park) in that 15-game stretch (with no HRs in the last nine games).
Georgetown 0-0-0 0-0-0 2 – 2 6 2
Notre Dame 0-0-2 4-0-0 X – 6 12 0
Eduardo Pena (L, 0-4), Pat Salvitti (6) and Michael Lombardi.
Chris Niesel (W, 2-1) and Javi Sanchez.
Doubles: Matt Edwards (ND), Kris Billmaier 3 (ND), Danny Gronski (GU).
Georgetown 0-0-2 0-0-0 0-0-1 – 3 7 3
Notre Dame 1-0-2 0-1-9 0-0-X – 13 11 2
Travis Danysh (L, 0-3), Steven Burns (6), Kevin Lundquist (6), Tyler Abbott (7) and Andrew Cleary, Chris Burling (8).
John Axford (W, 5-0), Brandon Viloria (7), Cody Wilkins (8) and Javi Sanchez, Steve Andres (9).
Home Run: Timmy Jones, GU (solo in 9th; 1st of season).
Doubles: Steve Sollmann (ND), Matt Caruso (GU).