March 13, 2004
ROUND ROCK, Texas – Sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) retired 14 straight batters at one point while holding a potent Texas Tech squad to one hit in eight shutout innings as the eighth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team notched another impressive early-season win, besting the Red Raiders 6-1 in Saturday-afternoon Round Rock Classic action at Dell Diamond. Sunday morning’s scheduled game vs. Illinois was canceled due to steady rains in the Austin area.
The quick start by the 2004 team now represents the first 12-1 record by a Notre Dame team in 94 years, reaching back to a 19-1 start by the 1910 squad. Just five previous Notre Dame teams have been 12-1 or 13-0 at the 13-game mark, with each of those teams playing in a nine-year span at the start of the century (1902-10).
Thornton (2-1) – who matched his career high with seven strikeouts in the eight-inning stint – allowed just five balls to leave the infield while carving up the Red Raiders lineup, bouncing back in a big way after losing last weekend to homestanding Texas-San Antonio. The 6-6, 215-pounder added another strong outing to go along with earlier wins over nationally-ranked USC and Florida Atlantic, with Texas Tech (13-5) boasting gaudy offensive numbers that included a .350 team batting average, 13 runs per game, 30 home runs and 50 doubles.
The Red Raiders drew walks in each of the first three innings while their only hit versus Thornton came in the third, when Cody Fuller blooped a single that fell in from of leftfielder Chris Fournier. Jason Delgado earned a two-out walks moments later but Thornton induced a rightside groundout from Michael Mask, followed by four straight 1-2-3 innings and a groundout to open the 8th as he continued to keep the hitters guessing and off-balance. Thornton then hit Fuller with a pitch, ending his streak of 14 consecutive batters retired (he also had a strong of 13 straight batters without the ball leaving the infield).
Thornton logged 112 pitches and was pulled prior to the 9th, with junior righthander Tyler Jones yielding a pair of hits in the final frame (the Irish were three outs shy of handing Texas Tech its first 1-hit/no-hit loss since 1991).
Notre Dame – which again played without injured rightfielder and 5-hole hitter Cody Rizzo (out with a sprained wrist) – cashed in four hits and two walks for the decisive four-run top of the 5th. Sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez started things off versus junior lefthander Dallas Braden, going the other way on an 0-1 pitch for a one-out single to right field. Fournier followed two pitches later with a sharp single to right-center before senior second baseman Steve Sollmann delivered his first extra-base hit of the season, driving a 1-2 pitch to the right-center gap for an RBI double.
Junior righthander Tanner McElroy then took the mound to face righthanded 3-hole hitter Matt Edwards but the junior first baseman walked on five pitches to load the bases with two outs. Senior catcher Javi Sanchez added his own five-pitch walk, plating Fournier, and junior third baseman Matt Macri then picked up his 15th and 16th RBI of the season by driving a double over the shortstop’s head.
Notre Dame pushed across a pair of insurance runs in the 8th. Junior lefthander Barrett Pliler nearly was out of the inning after retiring the first two batters and working to a 1-2 count on Lopez – but the next pitch hit the Irish batter and Fournier drove a 1-1 pitch inside the first-base bag (he took second on the throw). Sollmann followed with a smash to the right side, with first baseman Josh Brady unable to handle the well-struck ball for a costly two-run error.
The Irish turned in their seventh error-free game of the young season while posting double-digit hits (10) for the eighth time in 2004. It also marked the seventh time this season that Notre Dame has won by five-plus runs.
Notre Dame’s 12-1 start is all the more noteworthy when considering the absence of two top pitchers (junior RHP John Axford and freshman RHP Jeff Manship, both out for the season due to injury) plus the limited contributions of junior RHP Grant Johnson (just 3 IP, due to shoulder surgery rehab and illness) and Sollmann’s uncharacteristic .216 batting average (he combined to hit .370 in the 2001-03 seasons).
UPDATED TEAM NOTES: Thornton’s 24 outs breaking down as follows: seven Ks (three “looking”), five leftside groundouts (three 5-3), five rightside groundouts (four 4-3), a popup to the 2B Sollmann, a foulout to the C Sanchez, one runner caught stealing, three flyouts to center field and one flyout to right … Thornton located 63% of his pitches for strikes (71 of 112) … Thornton and junior RHP Chris Niesel both rebounded from rocky outings earlier in the trip … the rightside infielders – Sollmann and Edwards – have yet to make an error this season while the leftsiders (Lopez and Macri) each have posted 11 error-free games … Sollmann has logged 18 straight error-free games with the Irish (spanning 94 fielding chances) and owns 65 error-free games in the last two seasons … Lopez has not made an error in the last five games (22 chances) … the five previous ND teams that have started 12-1 or 13-0 include the 1908 (13-0/20-1), 1907 (17-0/19-1), 1910 (19-1), 1902 (13-1) and 1909 (12-1) squads … Texas Tech became the 282nd all-time opponent in ND baseball history, with the Irish now 16-2 in their last 18 games vs. first-time opponents … the Irish also are 18-2 in their last 20 regular-season tournament games … ND has racked up a 30-5 combined scoring edge in the 7th (14-3) and 8th innings (16-2) … the Irish have scored in 97 straight games and have been shut out just once in the last 327 … Sanchez went 1-for-3 and now is a .311 career hitter away from home (26 points above his .285 career avg. at Eck Stadium) … Sollmann picked up his 266th career hit, still 7th in the ND record but now just three behind his brother Scott’s former classmate Mike Amrhein (Steve scored his 187th run to tie Scott for 8th on that ND list) … Sollmann hit .413 on the 2001 spring trip as a freshman and .519 during 2003 spring break, but he hit just .190 on the ’02 spring trip (while battling a quad pull) and hit only .182 in Texas this week … Edwards has pushed his career batting avg. to .373, passing Steve Sollmann (.372) for 4th in the ND record book behind All-Americans Dan Peltier (.406), Eric Danapilis (.405) and Steve Stanley (.384) … top hitters in the seven-game Spring Break trip included Edwards (.462, 12-for-26, 9 RBI, 5 R, HR, 2 2B, 7 BB, HBP), sophomore lefthanded DH Steve Andres (.389, 7-for-18, 4 RBI, 5 R, HR, 2B, 3 BB, HBP, 1-1 SB) and Macri (.370, 8 RBI, 6 R, 3 2B, 3 BB) … the ND offense’s overall team stats in Texas included a .301 batting avg., a 56-40 scoring edge, 2 home runs, 16 doubles, 31 walks, 15 HBP, 42 strikeouts and 5-of-7 stolen bases … the Irish made 10 errors on the trip (.965 fielding pct.), with the pitching staff totaling a 4.77 team ERA in Texas and a .260 opponent batting avg. (plus 45 Ks, 22 BB, 5 HB, 2 WP and 66 H in 66 IP) … Sanchez threw out 6-of-11 attempted basestealers on the trip … Edwards continues to lead the ND regulars in batting avg., rising to .435 after a 3-for-4 day vs. Texas Tech (his other stats include 17 RBI, 11 R, 4 HR, 4 2B, 10 BB and 2 HBP … Edwards’ combined BB and HBP total (12) is three more than his K total (9) while his “OBS” – combined on-base (.542) and slugging (.783) percentages – is an eye-popping 1.325 … next on the batting charts are the respective 7 and 8-hole hitters: Macri (.373, 16 RBI, 14 R, HR, 3B, 4 2B, 6 BB, SB) and Lopez (.370, 15 RBI, 14 R, 2 2B, 3 BB, 5 HBP, 2 SAC, SB) … Macri is batting a full 100 points above his combined avg. from the 2002 and ’03 seasons (.273, 48 RBI in 77 GP) while Lopez has made huge offensive jump from 2003 (when he hit .250 with 26 RBI in 50 GP) … updated 2004 overall stats: .324, 119-60 scoring edge, 10 HR, 3B, 27 2B, .450 slugging, 56 BB, 26 HBP, 77 Ks, .419 on-base, 10 SAC, 13-17 SB, 13 Es, .974 fielding, 9 DPs … the Irish have totaled nearly as many runs scored (120) as runners left on (120) … the staff ERA has dropped to 4.12 (.255 opp. avg., 94 Ks, 34 BB, 113 H, 7 WP, 13 HB in 118 IP) … the individual ERA leaders at the 13-game mark (min. 4 IP) include: freshman RHP Jeff Samardzija (0.96, SV, 4 GP, 9.1 IP, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 1 H/.034), sophomore RH closer Ryan Doherty (1.35, 2-0, 2 SV, 5 GP, 6.2 IP, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 4 H/.167, HB), senior LHP Joe Thaman (2.53, 1-0, 5 GP, 10.2 IP, 9 Ks, 2 BB, 6 H/.158, 2 WP) and Thornton (2.84, 2-1, 4 GS, 25.1 IP, 20 Ks, 8 BB, 19 H/.211, 3 HB) … the staff’s walk average (2.6 per 9 IP) has dropped considerably from 2003 (3.5).
#8 Notre Dame (12-1) 0-0-0 0-4-0 0-2-0 – 6 10 0
Texas Tech (13-5) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-1 – 1 3 1
Tom Thornton (W, 2-1), Tyler Jones and Javi Sanchez.
Dallas Braden (1-1), Tanner McElroy (5), Barrett Pliler (6) and Cooper Fouts, Jacob Jones (9).
Doubles: Scott Sollmann (ND), Matt Edwards (ND), Matt Macri (ND).