March 8, 2002
The Notre Dame baseball team was one out away from a hard-fought, 3-2 victory over TCU before seeing the Horned Frogs rally for six straight hits and a 7-3 win, in first-round action Friday at the Express College Classic. The four-day tournament is being held at one of the nation’s top minor-league facilities, Dell Diamond, home of the Houston Astros double-A affiliate Round Rock Express (which owned by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan).
Freshman righthander Grant Johnson (1-1) suffered the hard-luck loss despite another impressive outing that included eight strikeouts and just one walk in eight and two-thirds innings. The 6-6, 220-pounder allowed a pair of first-inning hits but held TCU to just one hit in the next seven innings before giving up four hits in the ninth (he finished with six runs allowed on seven hits).
Notre Dame (4-4) has seen its four starting pitchers combine for 51 strikeouts and just five walks this season, in 50 innings. Another freshman righthander is slated to start on Saturday versus perennial power USC, as Chris Niesel heads into the matchup versus the Trojans with 19 Ks and just one walk allowed in 12 innings.
TCU (7-9) claimed a 2-0 lead in the first inning before the Irish tied the game with solo home runs in the fourth and fifth, from senior third baseman Paul O’Toole and senior first baseman Ken Meyer.
Both teams totaled nine hits but the Irish cashed in just three baserunners while leaving eight on base. Notre Dame continued to play without preseason All-American Brian Stavisky (the junior leftfielder is out with a shoulder injury) but the Irish welcomed back senior catcher Andrew Bushey, who had missed the previous five games with his own shoulder injury.
Senior lefthander Josh Gardner (2-0), TCU’s second reliever of the game, picked up the win after closing with two shutout innings, allowing three while striking out three.
Mike Settle kept TCU’s hopes alive in the ninth with a first-pitch single up the middle before lefthander Walter Olmstead went the other way with a single through the left side. Lefty pinch-hitter Rudy Ontiveros then sent a slow bouncer to the left side on an 0-1 pitch, with O’Toole sending a strong throw across the diamond that nearly edged the runner for the final out.
The Horned Frogs then went to another lefthanded pinch hitter and Troy Crawford delivered on a 2-2 pitch, slicing a two-run single over leaping shortstop Matt Edwards for the 4-3 TCU lead. Senior righthander Matt Buchmeier came on in relief but TCU added two more RBI singles for the final margin.
Notre Dame chased junior righthander Patrick Newburn in the bottom of the sixth, sparked by sophomore second baseman Steve Sollmann’s full-count single up the middle. Freshman DH Matt Macri followed with a 2-1 single through the left side and Newburn hit O’Toole with an 0-2 pitch. Righthanded reliever Ryan Nesloney then registered the first out but Bushey’s flyout to left plated Sollmann for the 3-2 lead.
TCU’s early scoring saw Johnson hit Will Lewis with the first pitch of the game before Terry Trofolz delivered a 1-2, one-out double to right-center. Jake Duncan then sent a 2-2 pitch down past the first-base bag for the early 2-0 lead.
O’Toole put the Irish on the board with one out in the bottom of the fourth, taking an 0-1 pitch from Newburn and launching his second home run of the season (22nd of his career) over the fence in right-center field.
Meyer then tied the game on the first pitch in the bottom of the fifth, lifting the ball into the wind and over the leftfield fence for his eighth career home run and first of 2002.
TCU (7-9) 2-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-5 – 7 9 0
Notre Dame (4-4) 0-0-0 1-1-1 0-0-0 – 3 9 1
Patrick Newburn, Ryan Nesloney (6), Josh Gardner (8, W, 2-0) and Justin Hatcher.
Grant Johnson (L, 1-1), Matt Buchmeier (9) and Andrew Bushey.
Home Runs: Paul O’Toole, ND (solo in 4th, 2nd of season), Ken Meyer, ND (solo in 5th, 1st of season).
Doubles: Terry Trofholz (TCU), Jake Duncan (TCU), Stave Stanley (ND).