March 20, 2004
CARBONDALE, Ill. – Junior lefthander Eric Haberer logged seven strong innings and Erik Alvarez stroked two home runs en route to a five-RBI day as the Southern Illinois baseball team handed 8th-ranked Notre Dame an 8-4 loss in the first of two games slated for this weekend at Abe Martin Field.
Notre Dame (12-2) totaled 16 baserunners but struggled with its offensive execution, stranding seven while hitting into two double plays and seeing two other runners thrown out on the bases. Junior righthander Chris Niesel (3-1) suffered the first loss in his last 13 decisions with the Irish, falling to 16-2 in his ND career after allowing six runs on seven hits and three walks in five-plus innings of work.
Southern Illinois (3-12) – which battled a tough early-season schedule while suffering several late-inning losses – avenged a 12-11, 11-inning loss to the Irish at last week’s Alamo City Classic. The Salukis are favored to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference, behind perennial power Wichita State, and now have won their last three games (including a 22-6 win over Murray State).
Three Notre Dame players – Matt Macri, Matt Bransfield and Greg Lopez – hit home runs, but they each came with no runners on base. Senior second Steve Sollmann collected a pair of hits from his leadoff spot but the Irish batters combined to hit 0-for-10 (with two walks) from the 2-4 spots in the lineup.
The longest outing of Haberer’s career (6.2 IP) included just one strikeout while limiting Notre Dame to three runs on six hits and one walk.
Notre Dame continued to play without sophomore rightfielder and 5-hole hitter Cody Rizzo, who has missed the last four games due to a wrist injury.
The Irish held a brief lead in the 4th, when senior catcher Javi Sanchez drew a one-out walk, moved up on a pair of wild pitches and scored on Macri’s groundout. The Salukis quickly answered with five hits (including Alvarez’s two-run single up the middle) and a walk to claim a 4-1 lead. Alvarez then sent a first-pitch home run over the centerfield fence in the 6th, extending the cushion to 6-1.
Notre Dame entered the day with a 14-2 scoring edge in the 7th inning and tacked on two more on Saturday, as Macri and Bransfield homered back-to-back on first pitches from Haberer (both of the one-out blasts went to the opposite field, in right-center).
The Irish had rolled up even a great scoring margin in the 8th inning this season (16-2) and ND was poised to add to that number as well, with two runners on base and one out after junior first baseman Matt Edwards earned a walk (his 11th in 14 games) and Sanchez was hit by a 1-2 pitch. But senior righthander Josh Joiner then rolled up a pair of groundballs to maintain the 6-3 advantage.
The hosts followed with their own back-to-back home runs, as Andrews and Alvarez left the park in the bottom of the 8th.
Notre Dame has one last rally in the 9th when Lopez homered to left-center (on a full count) and Danny Dressman sent a sharp single over the second baseman’s head. Junior righthander Andrew Weber then took the mound and SIU closed out the 8-4 win.
Junior righthander Grant Johnson is slated to start Sunday’s game in limited duty and likely will be followed by sophomore lefthander and two-time BIG EAST pitcher of the week Tom Thornton.
Notes: Bransfield’s home run was the first of his ND career while Lopez hit his second of ’04 and second of his career (Macri now has two HR’s in ’04 and seven in his Irish career) … Alvarez’s 4th-inning blast was just the third home run allowed by Niesel since the 2002 College World Series, when Rice’s Austin Davis led off the 4th inning by sending a 1-1 pitch over the leftfield fence … prior to Alvarez’s home run, Niesel had allowed just 2 HRs spanning 130.2 innings and 539 batters … senior lefthander Joe Thaman (logged a shutout 7th inning while freshman RHPs Derik Olvey and Dan Kapala threw the 6th and 8th … Thaman’s impressive debut pitching season now includes a 2.31 ERA, .146 opponent batting average (6-for-41), 9 strikeouts and just 2 walks in 11.2 innings (he had a 1-2-3 inning vs. SIU).
Notre Dame 0-0-0 1-0-0 2-0-1 – 4 9 0
Southern Illinois 0-0-0 4-0-2 0-2-X – 8 10 1
Chris Niesel (L, 3-1), Derik Olvey (6), Joe Thaman (7), Dan Kapala (8) and Javi Sanchez.
Eric Haberer (W, 1-0), Josh Joiner (7), Andrew Weber (9) and Nathan Emrick.
Home Runs: Erik Alvarez, SIU (1 on in 6th; 3rd of season); Matt Macri (solo in 7th, 2nd of season); Matt Bransfield, ND (solo in 7th; 1st of season); Greg Lopez, ND (solo in 9th; 2nd of season); Greg Andrews, SIU (solo in 8th; 5th of season); Alvarez, SIU (solo in 8th; 4th of season).
Double: P.J. Finigan (SIU).