April 6, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The fourth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team elected to start mostly reserve players in Tuesday night’s game vs. Chicago State but had to reinsert the starters after trailing 3-0 after four innings, with the Irish regulars combining to bat nearly .500 (11-for-23) the rest of the way to secure the team’s 10 straight victory (15-5). It marks the ninth double-digit winning streak in the 10-year Paul Mainieri era while the ’04 squad (23-3) has reached 20 games over .500 quicker than any other team in the program’s 112-year history.
Notre Dame – which has received quality performances from several reserve players in recent weeks – made wholesale changes in the top of the 5th, inserting six new players into the field while shifting sophomore Steve Andres from catcher to left field (senior second baseman Javi Sanchez – subbing for injured classmate Steve Sollmann – also remained in the game). The bottom of the 5th saw another starter back in the game in the form of sophomore DH Matt Bransfield, with the Irish quickly scoring five runs to take a 5-3 lead.
Notre Dame then put the game away with seven runs in the 8th, marking the fourth time in the last two games that the Irish have scored five-plus runs in an inning.
Three of Notre Dame’s hottest hitters – Matt Macri, Bransfield and Craig Cooper – each hit home runs in the game. Macri enjoyed a 3-for-3 night with three runs scored, with the junior third baseman hitting his first home run in seven games. All six of Bransfield’s home runs have come in the last 12 games while all three of Cooper’s home runs have come in the last six, each on rocket shots down the rightfield line (the sophomore rightfielder’s grand slam capped the seven-run 8th).
Freshman righthander Rico Bertucci (1-0) was credited with the win in a planned rotation. Bertucci was the second reliever of the night, after two solid innings from freshman lefthander Matt Whittington (H, BB, 9 BF), with Bertucci shutting out the Cougars in the 6th and 7th before hitting the leadoff batter and allowing a 1-out single in the 8th. Bertucci ultimately was tagged for two runs, when the ensuing pitchers issued a walk and hit another batter with the bases loaded, with his totals in 2.1 innings including one strikeout and three hits allowed.
Freshman righthander Dan Kapala qualified for his first save of the season after entering an 8-4 game with two outs and the bases loaded in the 8th. Kapala hit the first batter he faced but blew a 1-2 pitch by Elliott Reyes to end the threat (he then set down the side in the 9th).
CSU senior lefthander Aaron Lang opened the game with four shutouts innings (H, 3 BB, 2 Ks) before the Irish rallied versus sophomore righthander Scott Fritzler (0-1), who was touched for six runs in two innings of work (4 H, 2 BB, 2 Ks).
Sophomore shortstop Greg Lopez started the comeback with a full-count walk to open the bottom of the 5th. Fritzler then hit sophomore centerfielder Cody Rizzo with an 0-1 pitch – Rizzo’s ninth HBP of the season and 37th of his career (one shy of Craig DeSensi’s ND record) – before Macri loaded the bases with a single up the middle. Sanchez (who hit 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs) then sent the next pitch into left field for a two-run single, Andres advanced the runners with a flyout and freshman catcher Sean Gaston drew an intentional walk to again load the bases.
Junior first baseman Matt Edwards quickly unloaded the bases, whipping a 2-1 pitch that one-hopped the wall down the leftfield line for a three-run double and a 5-3 Irish lead.
Macri added his solo shot in the 6th, driving a first pitch from Fritzler over the fence in right-center field.
Edwards later singled into the left-center gap (on a 2-2 pitch from junior RHP Ryan Payne) and Bransfield followed by driving a 1-0 pitch to right-center for the 8-3 lead in the 7th.
The seven-run 8th included a costly error on third baseman Jason Grace that led to six of the runs being unearned. Rizzo, Macri (RBI), Sanchez (beat out sac. bunt) and Andres (RBI) each collected hits in the inning, with Edwards adding a sac. fly before Cooper went the other way on a first-pitch offering from sophomore righthander John Torres for Notre Dame’s first grand slam of the season.
NOTES: The Irish now are 62-8 in April during the past four seasons … ND’s 28 HRs (18 in last 13 games) are three shy of the ’03 team’s season total … Macri and Lopez both have totaled 20 error-free games in ’04, with Macri making just one E in his last 15 GP (spanning 52 fielding chances) … Macri is batting 12-for-18 in the last five games (12 R, 7 RBI), with multiple hits in each game … Andres extended his career-best hitting streak to nine games, in addition to drawing his team-leading 22nd walk of the season … Edwards (2-for-2, 4 RBI) and Macri now share the team RBI lead with 29 each while Macri has climbed to second on the ND batting charts (.376, behind Gaston’s .381) … ND now owns a 55-15 combined scoring edge in the 7th (26-8) and 8th (29-7) innings … Sanchez has hit batting avg. up to .326, after hitting 9-for-18 in the last four games … the Irish are 50-7 in their last 57 at Eck Stadium (since mid-2002) .. ND has scored in 110 straight games, 339 of the last 340 and 582 of 586 in the Mainieri era (99.32%) … the Irish have posted double-digit hits and double-digit runs in 5 of the last 6 games, with 16 total double-digit hit games (12 with 12-plus) and 11 games with double-digit runs … the 15 runs tied for the 4th-most this season (behind the 19 scored vs. Winthrop and Minnesota and the 16 vs. Detroit) … ND batters were hit-by-pitch four times, brining the team total to 48 (well on pace to break the ND record of 75 set in ’93).
Chicago State 0-0-3 0-0-0 0-2-0 – 5 9 2
Notre Dame 0-0-0 0-5-1 2-7-X – 15 12 2
Aaron Lang, Scott Fritzler (5; L, 0-1), Ryan Payne (7), John Torres (8) and Brian Grippo.
Home Runs (all ND): Matt Macri (solo in 6th; 4th of season), Matt Bransfield (1 on in 7th; 6th of season), Craig Cooper (grand slam in 8th; 3rd of season).
Triple: Brandon Candiano (CS).
Doubles: Matt Edwards (ND), Derrick Bass (CS).