April 29, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Alex Nettey’s leadoff single sparked the winning rally in the bottom of the 13th, as the Notre Dame baseball team pushed its unbeaten streak to 10 games with Friday night’s 7-6 win over Cleveland State. It marked the third-longest game – in terms of both innings and time (3:52) – in the 11-year history of Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (26-15-1), decked out in throwback jerseys for the annual “Turn Back The Clock Night,” improved to 17-3-1 at home this season, thanks in large part to the relief effort of sophomore righthander Jeff Samardzija. Starter Tom Thornton was not his sharpest while looking for a fourth straight complete game, as the junior lefthander allowed six runs (three earned) on nine hits in the first 5.0 innings, with three strikeouts in his 87-pitch outing.
Samardzija, now focused on one sport after spring football ended last weekend, then held Cleveland State (9-24) to four hits and one walk in his seven shutout innings, with his 104-pitch stint including eight strikeouts.
Alex Nettey scored Notre Dame’s first and final run to help beat the Vikings (all photos by Pete LaFleur).
Freshman righthander Tony Langford (2-0) retired three of the four batters he faced in the top of the 13th to pick up the win. Langford – who also has seen significant time this season in left field and as a righthanded-hitting DH – has logged some key bullpen duty in the past few games, including a win last week vs. Purdue (9-7, in 12) and a save vs. Valparaiso (9-8) in consecutive nights.
The teams mirrored each other for much of the game – as both scored three runs in the 1st inning and each starter went 5.0 innings before a pair of long stints by relievers from both teams. Each team also cashed in three unearned runs while the 24 combined hits included just one double (by the visitors) and two triples (by the Irish).
Junior leftfielder Craig Cooper paced Notre Dame’s 10-hit attack by batting 3-for-4 (3 RBI, 2 R, 3B). The 2-3-4 hitters combined for all but two of the Irish hits, as freshman 3B Brett Lilley (3-for-6, R) and senior 1B Matt Edwards (2-for-4, R) joined Cooper with multiple hits.
Freshman righthander Darren Greene (0-3) took the loss after failing to retire any of the four batters he faced in the 13th. Senior righthander Matt Kaltenbach (5.2 IP, 6 R/4 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 3 Ks) matched Thornton from the starter spot while sophomore lefthander Brandon Hewitt followed with 5.0 shutout innings (3 H, BB, 4 Ks). Junior RHP Gary Ball, who had been stenciled in to start Saturday’s game vs. the Irish (1:35), also retired four of the six batters he faced before turning the game over to Greene.
Nettey avoided a rare 0-for-7 game by sending the first pitch he saw from Greene back up the middle. The pitcher made a leaping stab behind the mound but was unable to complete the whirling throw as Nettey reached on the infield single. Greene then hit Lilley with the next pitch (Lilley’s team-leading 20th HBP of the season) and the runners moved up on wild pitch, prompting an intentional walk issued to Edwards. Cooper then appeared to barely foul off a 3-1 pitch but he did not make contact and catcher Josh Geric failed to hold the ball, with Nettey then scampering home for the game-winning run.
Craig Cooper tripled to score the first two Irish runs in Friday night’s game.
The Vikings used five singles to open the game with three runs before the Irish matched that output in the bottom of the frame. Nettey reached on an error and Lilley sent a 2-2 pitch up the middle before Cooper plated both runners one out, sending a 2-2 pitch into the right-center gap for his first triple of the season and fourth of his Notre Dame career. Matt Bransfield added an RBI groundout to forge the 3-3 tie.
Notre Dame held a brief 5-3 lead after scoring twice in the 3rd. Edwards led off by driving an 0-1 pitch over the head of the centerfielder, matching Cooper with his own first triple of the season and fourth of his career. Cooper then singled up the middle and stole second before scoring when Bransfield sent a 2-2 pitch up the middle.
Brett Lilley atoned for some rare defensive miscues by collecting three hits and picking up his 20th HBP of the season.
The visitors seized the lead in the 5th, cashing in a rare error-prone day from Lilley (who made three errors, after totaling just one in the previous 13 games at the hot corner). CSU used four singles and Lilley’s second error of the game to push across three unearned runs for a 6-5 lead.
The Irish tied the game in the next inning, with leadoff batter Ross Brezovsky reaching on an error before moving up on Greg Lopez’s sac. bunt and a one-out single from Lilley, who slapped the ball the other way. Shortstop Ben Smith’s diving stop held the runner at third but Kaltenbach’s second wild pitch of the game brought home the tying run (6-6).
Samardzija allowed a pair of two-out singles in the 8th but then retired nine of the next 10 batters, seven via strikeouts.
Matt Bransfield is batting 8-for-21 with 8 RBI in the past six games (including 2 RBI in the win over CSU).
Notes – Samardzija sliced his season ERA from 5.11 to 4.41 … ND has played to extra-inning four times in the past 10 games, going unbeaten in those games (wins over UConn, Purdue and Cleveland State; tie vs. Villanova) after a rare 0-3 start in extra-inning games this season (ND now is 23-8-2in its past 33extra-inning games) … the Irish had totaled just eight triples in 41previous games this season, also collecting a pair of triples in the second game of the early series vs. Dayton (by Nettey and Brezovsky) … ND now has totaled 42 runs in the 1st inning this season … in addition to Lilley, Cooper and junior RF Cody Rizzo also collected HBPs, pushing ND’s season total to 95 (still 14th in NCAA history, four out of 11th) … Rizzo moved into 5th place on the NCAA career HBP list with 62, trailing only Clay Schwartz (68; Wisconsin-Milwaukee, ’94-’97), Jeff Ontiveros (74; Texas, ’99-’02), Gabe Somarriba (81; Florida Atlantic, ’99-’02) and Tony Hurtado (92; San Francisco, ’97-’00) … Lilley’s 20 HBPs are one shy of tying Rizzo’s 2004 total for 2nd in the ND record book (behind Rizzo’s 28 in ’03) … Cooper has 6 HBPs this week (4 GP) and is tied with Rizzo 2nd on the team with 13 HBPs this season (he had just 6 combined HBPs in ’03 and ’04) … Lopez still has made just one error since Lilley’s shift to 3B, a span of 14 games and 69 fielding chances (Lopez has 33 error-free games this season and 75 in the past two seasons) … the only Eck Stadium games to go longer (in terms of innings) at Eck Stadium both lasted 15 innings: a 5-3 win over West Virginia on May 3, 1998, and the 7-6 win over Ball State on March 23, 2004 … the two games that have lasted longer in game time were the WVU game (4:20) and the crazy 22-18 loss to Pittsburgh on May 7, 2000 (4:060.
Tom Thornton failed to deliver his fourth straight complete game but the ace of the Irish staff still has walked just one batter in his past four starts (spanning 32 innings).
Cleveland State (9-24) 3-0-0 0-2-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 – 6 14 2
Notre Dame (26-15-1) 3-0-2 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-0-0 1 – 7 10 3
Triples: Craig Cooper (ND), Matt Edwards (ND).
Double: Ben Smith (CS).