Feb. 21, 2004

Box Score

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Sophomore lefthander Tom Thornton (Middleboro, Mass.) rose to the occasion in the biggest start of his career while the Irish offense cashed in three Southern California errors as the 10th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team posted a 3-1 win over the 20th-ranked Trojans in second-day action at the USC Public Storage Classic.

The Irish are slated to conclude the weekend early Sunday morning versus Louisville (which pounded San Diego State, 19-6, on Saturday) at 9:30 a.m. – but the game is in doubt as rain continued to fall hard into the night on Saturday.

Notre Dame (2-0) put 13 men on base but failed to produce a big inning, with junior third baseman Matt Macri (Clive, Iowa) providing the only Irish RBI on a double in the fifth.

Sophomore rightfielder and local product Cody Rizzo (Temecula, Calif.) continued to play stellar defense, including a throw to the plate in the sixth that preserved a 2-1 lead.

The game was halted after seven innings, due to a steady downpour and deteriorating field conditions.

Thornton struck out four USC batters while scattering four hits and two walks over the six innings. His classmate Ryan Doherty then came on for the save, striking out three of the five batters he faced.

USC (2-4) tried to rally in the top of the seventh, with one out and two runners on base – but Doherty earned a strikeout on a check-swing and rolled up the game-ending groundout.

Rizzo (2 runs scored) combined with Macri and sophomore DH Matt Bransfield to each bat 2-for-3 from their respective 5th-7th spots in the batting order, with sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez adding the team’s seventh hit.

Notre Dame picked up five of its seven hits with two-strike counts, including the first two in the second inning. Rizzo faced a 2-2 count with one out before smacking a single off the glove of sophomore lefthander Bobby Paschal (1-1), who went on two allow a pair of unearned runs on seven hits and one walk over 4.2 innings (with three Ks).

Macri advanced Rizzo by driving an 0-2 pitch through the left side, with Bransfield then sending the next pitch to a similar spot. Shortstop Blake Sharpe dove to his left to make a tough stop but he bounced the throw to second, with Macri sliding in safely (the play was ruled a single). Lopez then bounced the next pitch back to the mound but Paschal bounced his throw to the mound, with Rizzo sliding in for the unearned run.

The Irish tacked on a run in the fifth, with junior first baseman Matt Edwards reaching on a swinging bunt – as catcher Baron Frost sailed his throw down the line, allowing Edwards to move to second. Senior catcher Javi Sanchez followed with a sacrifice bunt and USC appeared to be out of trouble when Edwards was thrown out at home on Rizzo’s leftside grounder. But Macri delivered for a 2-0 lead, driving a 2-1 pitch into the left-center gap for an RBI double.

USC responded in the top of the sixth and nearly tied the game, sparked by senior third baseman Michael Moon’s two-out, full-count single to left-center. Sanchez then was called for catcher’s interference, putting Joey Metropoulos on first, and Thornton walked cleanup hitter Jeff Clement on three pitches to load the bases.

Sharpe then dropped a 2-1 single into shallow right field and USC sent Metropoulos around third as the potential tying run – but Rizzo sent a strike to Sanchez, who snapped the tag to preserve the 2-1 lead (Rizzo had a similar throw that nearly surprised a San Diego State runner on Friday).

The Irish restored their two-run cushion in the sixth, after junior righthander Jon Williams hit leadoff hitter Lopez with a 2-2 pitch (Williams was slated to be Sunday’s starter vs. SDSU). Lopez then stole second and senior second baseman Steve Sollmann drew a one-out walk before Danny Dressman sent a groundball to the right side. The first baseman Metropoulos tried to throw out Sollmann at second but his throw was wild, with Lopez scooting around for another unearned run.

NOTES: The Irish are batting .310 as a team, led by Rizzo and Macri (both 3-for-7) … the ND pitchers have combined for a 0.56 ERA, totaling 18 Ks and just 5 walks while allowing just 9 hits (.170 opp. avg.) in 16 innings … ND has opened with wins in its first two Division I games for the first time since 1994 (the ’03 team opened with wins over Dayton and Newman before losing to ASU).

USC 0-0-0 0-0-1 0 – 1 4 3

NOTRE DAME 0-1-0 0-1-0 X – 3 7 1

Bobby Paschal (L, 1-1), Jon Williams (5) and Baron Frost.

Tom Thornton (W, 1-0), Ryan Doherty (7; SV, 1) and Javi Sanchez.

Doubles: Jon Brewster (USC), Matt Macri (ND).