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Irish survive scare, win big

Chris Federico | Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Chicago State gave No. 5 Notre Dame a scare Tuesday night.And then the Irish starters came in the game.The Cougars (1-27) jumped out to a 3-0 lead playing against many Irish reserves before Notre Dame coach Paul Mainieri put his starters into the game into the fifth inning.From there, the Irish (23-3) rolled to a 15-5 victory over the outmatched Cougars.”I hated to take those kids all out,” Mainieri said. “I wasn’t upset with all of them, but there was a little bit of a lack of intensity that I expected from some guys. … The bottom line is we went through the lineup twice and had only one hit.”After the regulars entered the game in the fifth, the Irish batters went 11-for-23 and put 15 runs on the scoreboard in just four innings.Chicago State jumped out to the early lead in the third when Cougar batters strung together four consecutive hits with two outs against Irish starter Chris Vasami. Chicago State first baseman Derrick Bass capped off the scoring for the Cougars with a two-run double to the gap in right center.In the top of the fifth, a concerned Mainieri made a slew of substitutions with his team down 3-0, sending Sean Gaston to catch, Matt Edwards to first, Greg Lopez to shortstop, Matt Macri to third, Cody Rizzo to center and Craig Cooper to right. The only Irish position players that remained in the game were Steve Andres, who moved from catcher to right field, and Javi Sanchez, who started the game at second base in place of the injured Steve Sollmann.”I just felt like this team has worked too hard this year to get [in] this position,” Mainieri said. “At that point, I felt like it was necessary to put our regulars in there to score some runs and play a little bit more steady defense, and it worked out well for us in the end.”The move paid off, indeed, as the Irish put five runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead. Sanchez had a two-run single in the inning, and Edwards cleared the bases with a three-run double.The Irish added a run in the sixth on a solo home run from Macri. They would get two more runs in the seventh on a two-run homer from designated hitter Matt Bransfield – his sixth in the last 12 games.Chicago State cut into the Irish lead in the eighth as second baseman Jonathan Sakurai got a bases loaded walk, and centerfielder Dave Walter was hit by a pitch in the next at bat. Irish reliever Dan Kapala struck out the next batter, shortstop Elliot Reyes, to end the inning and keep the Irish lead at 8-5.But that would be as close as the Cougars would get, as the Irish scored seven runs in the bottom half of the inning, getting four straight singles from Rizzo, Macri, Sanchez and Andres, and a grand slam from Cooper.Macri finished the game 3-for-3 at the plate, and Edwards was 2-for-2 with four RBIs. Sanchez added a 3-for-5 performance with two RBIs and a pair of runs scored.”When I put the regulars in, I thought they played pretty well,” Mainieri said. “They hit the ball hard and made the plays. Matt Macri stayed real hot, and Cooper and Bransfield had some great swings.”Freshman pitcher Rico Bertucci picked up the win for the Irish – his first of the year – and Kapala earned the save, as he entered the game in the eighth with the Irish up only three runs and stayed on to finish the game.Notre Dame returns to action today hosting Valparaiso (4-17) at Frank Eck Stadium at 6 p.m.