June 5, 2004
Tonight’s game was the 14th meeting between Kent State and Notre Dame. The series is now tied 7-7. The Golden Flashes owned a four-game winning streak against Notre Dame, dating back to 1967, before tonight’s loss.
This marks the fourth time since 1999, and the third in the last four years, Notre Dame’s Eck Stadium has played host to NCAA Championship action. This is the seventh time in school history that Notre Dame has hosted NCAA tournament play.
Notre Dame’s four occasions as a regional host since 1999 are eclipsed by only four teams: Miami (5), Florida State (6), LSU (6) and Stanford (6).
Through the first five games of this regional, the total attendance was 9,157, which already eclipses the six-game totals from the 1999 (8,801) and 2002 (8,018) NCAA regionals at Eck Stadium. The 2001 regional at Notre Dame drew 11,074 fans for seven games.
NOTRE DAME TEAM NOTES
With tonight’s victory, Notre Dame advances to the regional championship game for the fifth consecutive season, and the eighth time since 1992.
Over Notre Dame’s last 14 games, the pitching staff is 12-2 with a 1.96 ERA. The Irish have held 11 of those opponents to three runs or fewer, including three shutouts and three games in which they yielded only one run.
Notre Dame is making its 19th all-time appearance in the NCAA baseball tournament, and its seventh in the 10-year Mainieri era. The Irish are 40-38 all-time in tournament play. This year’s tournament appearance is the sixth consecutive for the Irish.
The two runs scored by the Irish in the opening frame of this evening’s ballgame mark the 12th time in the last 16 games Notre Dame has scored in the first inning. For the season, the Irish are outscoring their opponents 75-29 in the first inning of ballgames.
Notre Dame owns a 13-1 record in night games, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Cleveland State on April 28. The team is also 31-5 in non-conference games, 24-6 at home.
On six previous occasions, Notre Dame has entered the regional final needing two victories over its opponent to advance. The Irish have never accomplished the feat, though they won the first game at Mississippi State in 2000 and Florida International in 2001 (at Frank Eck Stadium).
KENT STATE TEAM NOTES
The Golden Flashes are making their second appearance in three years at Eck Stadium. KSU played in the 2002 South Bend Regional, but did not face Notre Dame, losing to South Alabama and Ohio State.
Kent State is making its seventh all-time appearance in the NCAA baseball tournament. The Golden Flashes are now 6-14 in tournament action.
Kent State had won 16 of its last 20 games before losing both games they played today.
NOTRE DAME PLAYER NOTES
Sophomore pitcher Tom Thornton’s 12 strikeouts set a new career high and mark the seventh outing this season in which the sophomore has posted five or more punchouts.
Thornton’s 12 Ks are also a modern-day (since 1971) Notre Dame NCAA record for strikeouts in a game (a span covering 44 games).
In Thornton’s last four starts, he is 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA (28.1 IP, seven ER). He has struck out 25 batters during that stretch while only walking four.
Thornton’s 12-strikeout performance is only the second double-figure strikeout effort by an Irish pitcher this season. Junior pitcher Chris Niesel had 12 in relief against Ball State on April 27.
Thornton produced seven groundball outs raising his team lead in that category to 117.
Sophomore left fielder Steve Andres’ was 2-for-2, with two RBI, in the ballgame with a runner on third and less than two outs, raising his average in that situation to .714 (5-for-7) with eight RBI.
Andres’ three hits tonight mark his third three-hit game of the season, and his 12th multi-hit game of the campaign.
Senior catcher Javi Sanchez’s three RBI on the evening were his first in his last four games. He entered the NCAA tournament with 38 RBI, good for fifth on the team.
Sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez struck out in his first three at-bats this evening, after not striking out in his first seven at bats of this regional tournament.
KENT STATE PLAYER NOTES
Freshman catcher Will Vazquez’s fifth-inning single extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over that stretch, he is 8-for-26 (.307).
Senior infielders Chad Kinyon and Matt Sega, who both set the Kent State single-season record for games started earlier in the regional, also established a new single-season mark in games played, with 63. The previous record belonged to Eric O’Brien, who played in 62 games during the 2001 season.
Sophomore second baseman Joe Tucker’s hitting streak ended at five games.
Junior centerfielder Chuck Moore was 6-for-13 (.461) in the three games leading up to the NCAA tournament, but was hitless in his first eight at-bats in South Bend before doubling in the only KSU run in the fifth inning of tonight’s ballgame.
Freshman pitcher Evan Smith’s fifth-inning wild pitch was only his second of the season, and his first since March 12 at Old Dominion.
Smith’s six strikeouts tie a season high, which he had done twice previously (most recently against Northern Illinois on May 28).