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Irish come up big at home

Joe Hettler | Thursday, April 15, 2004

Maybe the Irish should hold more players-only meetings before games.Just a few days after splitting back-to-back doubleheaders against Boston College and St. John’s, the Irish had a players only meeting before they went out and crushed Oakland 17-5 Wednesday night at Frank Eck Stadium.”I know it’s not a Big East conference game, and I know Oakland came in with not such a great record, but I was really happy with the way we played,” Notre Dame coach Paul Mainieri said.Matt Edwards went 3-for-4 and five Notre Dame hitters collected two RBIs as the Irish offense exploded for 17 runs and 14 hits.Notre Dame starting pitcher Jess Stewart (4-0) went five innings, allowing four runs – one earned – and five hits while striking out two and walking none to pick up the win. Dan Kapala, Rico Bertucci and Chris Niesel relieved Stewart and combined to go four innings, yielding zero runs.Mainieri cleared his bench, playing 18 position players and getting four pitchers into the game. “You want your kids go out and play hard and get better,” Mainieri said. “And I think we got better tonight.”Errors cost Oakland, especially early in the ballgame as the Irish scored five unearned runs in the first five innings. Notre Dame jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Steve Andres singled, Matt Macri walked and Edwards singled in a run to put the Irish up 1-0. Matt Bransfield followed with an RBI fielder’s choice and Edwards advanced to second on an Oakland error. Sanchez had a two-run base hit before Cooper ended the scoring with another RBI fielder’s choice. Three of the four runs were unearned for the Irish.Notre Dame let Oakland back in the game in the top of third when, with two outs and a run already plated, Irish left fielder Andres dropped a fly ball that would have ended the inning. The Golden Grizzlies took advantage with the next batter getting hit by a pitch followed by two straight singles that tied the game at 4-4.But the Irish answered in the bottom of the inning thanks to another costly Oakland error. Bransfield doubled to lead off the inning, and Cody Rizzo then reached on a Chad Winkler error at third base. Winkler had three errors in the game. With runners on second and third, Sanchez walked, Cooper then singled in a run and Rizzo scored on a wild pitch to put the Irish ahead 7-4. After Sisko struck out, Lopez had an RBI ground out to end Notre Dame’s scoring for the inning.After not scoring in the fourth inning, Notre Dame plated two runs in the fifth, four runs in the sixth, three more in the seventh and another run in the eighth. “I thought it was important to get back to playing good baseball,” Mainieri said. “Hustling, running the bases and backing bases and doing all the things we’ve always taken such pride in at Notre Dame – the way we play the game and the way carry ourselves. I just felt like we had gotten away from that.”The Irish have the rest of the week off before starting a three-game series at Georgetown. The Hoyas are 19-20 and 5-8 in the Big East. Notre Dame is 8-2 in conference play and tied for first place with Rutgers.