Irish batters buck Broncos, 12-3
Chris Federico | Thursday, April 1, 2004
The Irish bats stormed back to life Wednesday night, and No. 5 Notre Dame (18-3) put runs on the board in six straight innings to beat Western Michigan (8-12) at Frank Eck Stadium.The Irish batters collected 17 hits and scored a dozen runs to cruise to a 12-3 victory over the Broncos.”I thought today was one of our better games really,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said. “I met with our hitters the other day in practice, and I really challenged them. Here we are 17-3, and they’ve got a coach that isn’t satisfied.”In the last couple of weeks, Mainieri had worried about the lack of hitting from several of Notre Dame’s big batters.”I challenged [the team] to get a little bit of that swagger back when they go up to the plate in clutch hitting situations,” he said.The Irish hitters responded well as second baseman Steve Sollmann went 3-for-5 against the Broncos, third baseman Matt Macri was a perfect 3-for-3 and first baseman Matt Edwards had three RBIs and an opposite-field home run.Sollmann, who struggled out of the gates to a .227 batting average before a 5-for-11 weekend against West Virginia and a 3-for-5 night Wednesday, now has his average back up to .280 and says he is starting to get back into a rhythm at the plate.”You go through ups and downs in baseball,” Sollmann said. “The one thing you have to do is just keep your confidence. I’m seeing the ball better. I’m keeping things simple and not thinking too much at the plate.”The Irish jumped out to a good start Wednesday, plating four runs in the second inning and giving freshman pitcher Jess Stewart a comfortable 4-0 cushion.Trailing 5-1 in the top of the fourth inning, the Broncos cut Notre Dame’s lead in half as shortstop Adam Rosales – who went 2-for-4 on the day – sent a 1-1 Stewart pitch over the right field fence for a two-run homer. The freshman Stewart gave up a single to the next batter but then got three straight outs to end the inning.Notre Dame would go on to score seven unanswered runs in the next four innings to put the game out of reach.Freshman pitcher Mike Dury had a notable achievement in relief for the Irish, working three perfect innings in the fifth, sixth and seventh to earn the victory – the first of his career. The 6-foot-5 lefty had only one ball leave the infield and struck out two batters in his three innings.”At the beginning of the season, I didn’t really expect Mike Dury to contribute as much as a pitcher as he has this year,” Mainieri said. “He’s becoming a guy that the coaches are becoming very confident in out there.”The Irish return to the field today for a 5 p.m. game with Hillsdale College. The game was added to the schedule earlier in the week as a makeup game for the one that was cancelled against Illinois March 14.The NCAA allows baseball teams to play a maximum 56-game regular season schedule. Teams often scramble to fill dates that have been rained out or cancelled in order to get in as many games as are allowed. Mainieri says he is excited about the chance to get in an extra game before an important three-game Big East series with Villanova this weekend.”I actually think [the extra game] helps us,” Mainieri said. “I like playing games on Thursdays, because you don’t get stale on the two days from Wednesday to Saturday. I’m really grateful to Hillsdale College for wanting to come up and do it.”Irish freshman Chris Vasami will be the starter on the mound for Notre Dame.
Notes:u With strong winds blowing out to right field at Frank Eck Stadium Wednesday, three Irish batters and one Bronco hitter notched home runs – all over the right field fence. For Notre Dame, Edwards, outfielder Craig Cooper and designated hitter Matt Bransfield all hit dingers. Bransfield’s homer was his fourth in the last eight games.Rosales had the lone home run for Western Michigan.u The 17 hits recorded against Western Michigan were the most for the Irish since a 20-hit performance in a 12-11 victory over Southern Illinois March 6.