Oct. 11, 2001
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – If the final game of the annual Notre Dame Blue-Gold Series is any indication, then the Irish baseball program could be in for another memorable season when the spring of 2002 rolls around. Thursday’s decisive game in the three-game series saw the youthful gold team hold on for a 3-2 victory over the blue squad, which had won in dominating fashion on Wednesday (19-8) after the gold had won the opener, 7-4.
Senior catcher Matt Bok and junior first baseman Mike Holba delivered the key RBI hits in the fifth inning for a 15-player gold team that included nine freshmen and three sophomores. Freshman shortstop Matt Macri also left a unique imprint on the game, drilling a solo home rundown the leftfield line in the third inning (he also tripled in his first at-bat) before taking the mound to close the seven-inning game in dramatic fashion.
John Axford-the third consecutive freshman righthander to start for the gold-had an impressive 70-pitch outings (all pitchers were limited to five innings of 100 pitches), scattering five hits and one walk while striking out five different blue-team batters. Both of the runs credited to Axford were helped by a pair of wild pitches from the Canadian all-star, in the third and fifth innings.
Centerfielder Steve Stanley-who joined Bok as the only seniors on the gold team-went 0-for-3 (leaving his series average at .462, or 6-for-13), but his leadoff walk in the fifth sparked the game’s decisive rally. The gold team’s .341 batting average for the series also included .455 batting averages (5-for-11) from Macri (4 RBI, 3 R, HR, 2 3B, 2 BB, SB) and Holba (2 RBI, R) while Bok hit 4-for-10 with three RBI, two runs scored and a pair of walks.
The best offensive player of the series came from the blue side, as sophomore second baseman Steve Sollmann hit 8-for-13 (.615) with an eye-popping 16 total bases (HR, 3B, 3 2B, 3 1B), eight runs, two RBI and four stolen bases. Junior leftfielder Brian Stavisky (4-for-8, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 2B, 3 BB, 2 SB) also had a strong series for a blue team that batted .310 in the three games.
GAME RECAP – Both teams scrapped out just five hits in the error-free game, with junior righthander Ryan Kalita performing admirably for the blue squad. Kalita scattered five hits and three walks over his five innings and 72 pitches, with three strikeouts. His classmate Brandon Viloria then faced the minimum six batters over the final two innings (with two Ks) to keep the game close.
Macri’s one-out triple was wasted in the first, as Kalita recorded a strikeout and popup to get out of the jam. The gold then had runners on first and second in their next at-bat, but Kalita induced a flyout and a groundout to maintain the scoreless game. The blue answered with the same scenario but Axford rolled up a double-play ball to get out of the inning.
Macri opened the scoring in the top of the third, taking the first pitch of the inning for a strike before smacking the next pitch down the line and over the leftfield fence.
Sollmann’s leadoff single to right got the blue going in the bottom of the frame, with Axford’s wild pitch moving Sollmann to third (he was running on the play). Stavisky then singled up the middle on a 2-0 pitch, tying the game.
Senior rightfielder’s Matt Strickroth’s one-out double gave the blue a chance in the fourth but Axford closed the inning with a pair of called third strikes.
The pivotal fifth inning saw Stanley lead off with a four-pitch walk, followed by a stolen base and Macri’s walk on a 3-1 count. Kalita then rolled up a clutch double play but Bok came through on a 2-2 count, doubling to the gap in left-center for a 2-1 lead. Holba added a similar tough hit, sending an 0-2 pitch through the right side-with Bok motoring in from second for the two-run cushion.
Sollmann again had the answer for the blue, sending a one-out triple to right-center before scoring on a wild pitch.
Strickroth gave the blue another chance in the sixth, with a two-out walk, but freshman righthander Grant Johnson-in his second relief appearance of the series-induced a groundout to kill the threat. The bottom of the seventh opened with a classic duel, as sophomore catcher Soran Leahy fouled off four two-strike pitches before walking on the 10th pitch of his at-bat. Freshman centerfielder George Howard bunted Leahy to second but Sollmann went down swinging on a 1-2 curveball and senior third baseman Paul O’Toole grounded out to the first baseman Holba for the final out.
ND GOLD 0-0-1 0-2-0 0 - 3 5 0ND BLUE 0-0-1 0-1-0 0 - 2 5 0
Ryan Kalita, Brandon Viloria (6) and Soran Leahy
John Axford, Grant Johnson (6), Matt Macri (7) and Matt Bok
Home Run: Matt Macri, G (solo, 3rd inning)
Triples: Steve Sollmann (B), Matt Macri (G)
Doubles: Matt Bok (G), Matt Strickroth (B)