March 30, 2002
BETHESDA, Md. – The Notre Dame offense erupted for 35 hits – including 22 in the nightcap – while freshman righthanders Chris Niesel and John Axford delivered strong outings on the mound as the Irish baseball team swept Georgetown, 10-6 and 12-3, in BIG EAST Conference doubleheader action Saturday at Shirley Povich Field.
Notre Dame (12-10, 3-4 BIG EAST) – which ended its season-opening stretch of 22 consecutive road games – hit .461 as a team in the two games (raising the team’s season average from .279 to .297), led by five players with five hits. Senior third baseman Andrew Bushey elevated his season batting average to .403 with a 5-for-7 day that included seven RBI, two home runs, a pair of doubles and a walk.
The 22 hits are the most by a Notre Dame team since early in the 1999 season and tie for second-most in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era (since 1995), trailing only a 23-hit attack by the 1998 Irish squad in a similar game versus the Hoyas.
Sophomore shortstop Javier Sanchez – who had supplied the go-ahead, two-run double in the 10th inning of Thursday’s nightcap at West Virginia (a 10-6 win) – continued his strong week by batting 5-for-8 versus the Hoyas, highlighted by the first home run of his ND career (he also did not make an error on the four-game trip).
Georgetown (7-26, 2-8) – which posted early BIG EAST wins over Seton Hall and West Virginia – staged a late rally in the opener but managed just seven hits in the nightcap, versus Axford and juniors Peter Ogilvie and Ryan Kalita.
Notre Dame entered the day looking to improve its first-inning production (outscored 16-4 in the first inning of the first 20 games) while also hoping to post the high-scoring innings that have been so rare for the Irish this season. Both goals were met on Saturday, as the defending BIG EAST champs opened each game by putting five runs on the board – in addition to a five-run sixth in the nightcap.
Niesel (2-0) finally registered another decision, after seeing recent potential wins slip away in the late innings. The former prep All-American worked out of several jams in his five and two-thirds innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks and a hit batter. His 101-pitch outing included a pair of strikeouts and nine outs via the groundball.
Axford (2-2) – whose 3.51 season ERA is tops among ND pitchers with 10-plus innings – scattered four hits and three walks over his six-inning, 111-pitch outing while holding the Hoyas to a pair of runs (one earned). The 6-5, 175-pounder nearly posted double-digit strikeouts (9) while seven of his outs came via groundballs.
Matt Carullo managed a second-inning single vs. Axford but the next 12 GU batters failed to register a hit, with Axford posting six of his strikeouts during the 3rd-5th innings.
Junior leftfielder Brian Stavisky missed the game due to a facial fracture suffered in Thursday’s first game at West Virginia, when he was hit by a third-inning pitch. Stavisky also is slated to miss the upcoming BYU games (April 1-2 at Eck Stadium), with his status to be evaluated after Monday night’s game.
The absence of the cleanup hitter Stavisky produced an Irish lineup led by seniors in the first five spots. Senior DH Ken Meyer hit in the leadoff role that he occupied for much of the 2000 season while his classmate Matt Bok hit second and filled Stavisky’s spot in left field. Centerfielder Steve Stanley – who has hit mostly leadoff or second at ND – made his first career starts with the Irish in the No. 3 hole, followed by catcher Paul O’Toole as the cleanup hitter and Bushey in the fifth spot.
Saturday’s new-look lineup – with sophomore Steve Sollmann (quad injury) returning to second base while batting sixth – also resulted in the Irish electing not to play slumping freshman Matt Macri, who had started at second base versus WVU (he has yet to play at his natural shortstop position, due to an elbow strain).
In addition to Bushey and Sanchez, Notre Dame’s other five-hit players in the doubleheader included O’Toole (8 at-bats, 6 R, 3 RBI, 2B, SB), Sollmann (9 ABs, 3 R, 2 RBI) and Stanley (10 ABs, RBI, 2 R, 2B, SB).
Meyer was hit by a pitch to open the doubleheader and the Irish went on to add five singles and five runs in the inning. The Hoyas then rallied in the sixth versus reliever Matt Laird, cutting the lead to 8-6, but junior Brandon Viloria took the hill and rolled up a bases-loaded groundout en route to his second save of the season and the fourth of his career (he set down the side in the seventh).
Bushey provided some breathing room in the top of the seventh by launching a first-pitch offering from righthander Paul Perillo over the leftfield fence, for the final 10-6 margin.
Notre Dame chased righthander Tom O’Connor in the first inning of the nightcap, as Meyer again was hit by a pitch before Bok’s double, singles from Stanley and O’Toole, and Bushey’s walk. Sollmann followed with an RBI single and Sanchez sent a 1-0 pitch to left-center for the early 5-0 cushion, ending O’Connor’s brief outing.
Bushey’s third home run of the season (and eighth of his career) was the highlight of the five-run sixth, as the lefthander jumped all over a 3-1 pitch from righthander Kevin Galvin – with the two-run blast clearing the 25-foot screen in dead-center field.
NOTES: Stanley – now batting .433 for the season – added to his ND career records for hits (308) and consecutive starts (210) while pushing his career batting avg. to .372 (tied with Scott Sollmann for 3rd in ND history) … he also swiped his 99th career stolen base vs GU (just two shy of Sollmann’s record) and likewise is nearing the century mark in career RBI (97) and walks (98) … Stanley also passed 1997 graduate Mike Amrhein (195) into 5th on the ND list for career runs scored (197) … Bushey (44) has climbed into the ND top-10 list for career doubles (with nine this season, after 17 in 2001), with O’Toole ranking 12th in career doubles (41, with Stanley owning 37 and Stavisky 34).
Notre Dame 5-1-0 0-2-0 2 – 10 13 2
Georgetown 0-2-0 0-0-4 0 — 6 8 2
Chris Niesel (W, 2-0), Matt Laird (6), Brandon Viloria (6, SV, 2) and Paul O’Toole.
Kevin Field (L, 1-5), Tyler Abbott (3), Paul Perillo (5), Kevin Galvin (7) and Mike Lombardi.
Home Runs: Bill Quinn, GU (1 on in 2nd, 5th of season), Andrew Bushey, ND (1 on in 7th, 2nd of season).
Doubles: Bushey (ND), Matt Carullo (GU).
Notre Dame 5-0-1 0-0-5 0-0-1 – 12 22 1
Georgetown 0-0-0 0-0-2 0-1-0 — 3 7 1
John Axford (W, 2-2), Peter Ogilvie (7), Ryan Kalita (9) and Paul O’Toole.
Tom O’Connor (L, 0-3), Mike Halloran (1), Kevin Galvin (5), Travis Danysh (6), Thomas Braun (7), Patrick Salvitti (9) and Mike Lombardi, Phil Pierorazio (7).
Home Runs: Javier Sanchez (1 on in 1st, 1st of career) , Andrew Bushey, ND (1 on in 6th, 3rd of season).
Doubles: Bushey (ND), Steve Stanley (ND), Paul O’Toole (ND), Matt Carullo (GU).