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Baseball: Mainieri collects 500th win as team takes two of three

Chris Khorey | Monday, March 27, 2006

Head coach Paul Mainieri earned his 500th victory at Notre Dame, and the Irish got their Big East schedule off to a strong start by taking two of three games from Georgetown this weekend in Bethesda, Md.

Mainieri, who has compiled a 500-204-3 record in 12 seasons in South Bend, downplayed his achievement.

“It has nothing to do with me,” he said. “It’s all about the kids we’ve had and the staff over the years.”

The coach saw his reigning conference champion Irish drop the first game of a doubleheader Saturday 8-3 before winning the second game 12-2 and capping the weekend with a 6-3 victory Sunday. Notre Dame moved to 12-8 overall on the season.

“We were disappointed not to win all the games,” Mainieri said. “But we’ll be happy to win the series and look forward to Pittsburgh next weekend.”

The Irish and Panthers will meet for a three-game set next weekend at Frank Eck Stadium.

The Hoyas dropped to 11-14 overall and 1-2 in the Big East after their three-game homestand at Shirley Povich Field outside Washington, D.C.

The Irish got a lot of offensive production out of their eighth and ninth place hitters, shortstop Greg Lopez and right fielder Cody Rizzo.

The two combined for seven RBIs and five runs over the three games.

“[Rizzo] and Lopez have not hit for high average in their careers, but I guess their adrenaline gets pumping because they always seem to come through in the clutch,” Mainieri said. “If our bottom of the order has that kind of production and we can get the middle of the order to do the same, we’ll have a great offensive team.”

Georgetown 8, Notre Dame 3

The Hoyas exploded for four runs in the eighth against Notre Dame reliever Jess Stewart to put the game away.

Mainieri sent junior Jeff Manship to the mound for the first game Saturday. Manship pitched six full innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, but left the game trailing and ended up with the loss.

The Irish opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the first on an RBI double by left fielder Matt Bransfield, but the Hoyas came back to tie in the bottom half with two runs of their own.

Georgetown picked up two more runs in the bottom of the third, and the Irish answered with one in their half of the fourth after center fielder Alex Nettey took first on his Big-East leading 10th hit-by-pitch and was later driven in on a single by shortstop Greg Lopez.

“I think we’ve got some tough kids that stand close to the plate and when pitchers throw inside they don’t back down,” Mainieri said.

But that was all the scoring the Irish would do.

Notre Dame 12, Georgetown 2

The Irish bats came alive in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader as Notre Dame put 12 runs on the board in a 10-run win.

Rizzo led the Irish offensively, going 3-4 with a home run, four RBIs, and three runs scored.

“[The win] was big for us after losing the first game,” Rizzo said. “We came out and showed them we’re a better team than that.”

First baseman Jeremy Barnes also homered for Notre Dame from the leadoff spot.

Right-hander Jeff Samard-zija threw seven innings, allowing just five hits en route to his second win of the season.

Hoyas starter Darren Sizemore struggled, giving up nine runs and 11 hits in just 4-plus innings.

Notre Dame 6, Georgetown 3

The Irish jumped out to a 6-0 lead on the Hoyas before a ninth inning Georgetown rally cut the lead in half.

Notre Dame starter Tom Thornton pitched 8-plus innings without allowing a run, but was pulled after allowing two in the ninth. Closer Kyle Weiland came in to get the final outs.

“There was never really any fear they would come back,” Rizzo said. “We thought six runs would be enough.”

The Irish scored two runs in the top of the first, then added three in the fifth and one more in the ninth. The Hoyas tallied only six hits in the game and had no players with more than one.

Notre Dame will next be in action Tuesday at 5:05 p.m. against Valparaiso at Frank Eck Stadium.