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ND BASEBALL: Power hitter Cooper blasts grand slam, secures 9-8 win

Tom Dorwart | Friday, April 22, 2005

Craig Cooper is starting to like left field.

When he’s not catching fly balls or stopping groundballs in the luscious green of the outfield, he’s belting them – far over the left field fence.

For the second night in a row, Cooper blasted a home run over the left field wall. Wednesday night’s blast was a game-winner. Last night’s was a grand slam.

The slam was Cooper’s fifth homer of the season.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Notre Dame outfielder gave the Irish a 4-3 lead over the Valparaiso Crusaders (10-20) after knocking in his sixth RBI of the last two games combined. Valparaiso came back to score runs in the second, third and fourth innings and held an 8-5 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.

But Notre Dame got another four-run inning to take a 9-8 lead.

Veteran shortstop Greg Lopez drove a single through the left side to start the rally. After an Alex Nettey single, a hit-by-pitch and a couple of walks, the Irish punched in a few runs. With the bases juiced, catcher Matt Bransfield singled – again through the left side – for the tying and winning run.

The defense never let up, and the Irish won for the eighth time in nine tries and for the fifth time in a row.

Senior lefthander Scott Bickford picked up his second win of the season, improving to 2-1. The lefty – who pitched 1.1 scoreless innings – now owns an amazing 11-1 strikeout to walk ratio. One night after picking up his first victory, freshman righthander Tony Langford earned his first career save for the Irish.

Centerfielder Alex Nettey’s hot hitting continued. The junior finished 2-4 on the day, a day after going 4-6 against Purdue.

The Irish are now 22-15. They are 9-5 in the month of April. Last year, they finished the month 18-6.

Tonight at 6 p.m., the Irish shift back to Big East play to face the Villanova Wildcats (23-10-1, 7-6 Big East). Sitting at 8-4 in the conference, the Irish hope to jumble the standings a bit more when they face the fifth-place Wildcats in a three- game weekend series.