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Irish dominate Hillsdale

Chris Federico | Friday, April 2, 2004

Notre Dame coach Paul Mainieri cleared his bench Thursday night, and the Irish reserves responded with a 10-2 victory over Hillsdale College.”This is what’s great about today,” Mainieri said. “We got a chance to play several guys that don’t play on a regular basis, and to see them go out there and do well is really what made me feel good. These kids are the unsung heroes on our team.” No. 5 Notre Dame (19-3) added the game with Hillsdale (8-15) earlier in the week to serve as a makeup for a canceled contest with Illinois March 14.Outfielder Craig Cooper had the biggest day at the plate for the Irish, going 4-for-6 and falling just a double short of hitting for the cycle. The sophomore had three RBIs and two runs scored on the night. Center fielder Alex Nettey and designated hitter Brent Weiss – who missed all of 2003 with a shoulder injury – both went 2-for-4 in the game.”I thought they all played very well,” Mainieri said. “It’s not easy to not play for so long and then go in there and expect your instincts and reactions to be there, but those kids did. They went out there, and they played a good ballgame all-around.”Several Irish pitchers also got a chance to show their stuff on the mound against the Chargers as Chris Vasami, Joe Thaman, Ryan Doherty, Matt Whittington, Rico Bertucci and Scott Bickford each got in at least one inning of action. The freshman Vasami was the pitcher of record for Notre Dame, getting his first collegiate win in allowing two runs (neither earned) on four hits in three innings.The Irish struck first blood in the game, getting two runs in the second inning on a monster shot over the right field fence from left fielder Steve Andres. Freshman Mike Dury and Cooper also both had home runs in the game. Cooper’s dinger was his second in as many days.The Irish scored in six of the eight innings they batted and, for the most part, were never really threatened in the eight-run victory.Notre Dame now must turn its attention to Big East play and Villanova, as the Irish host the Wildcats (17-5-1, 3-0) in a three-game series this weekend.The Wildcats have gotten off to an unusually hot start this season, as they swept a three-game series from Georgetown last weekend. Villanova’s solid play and tough pitching has Mainieri more than concerned.”We’ve got a big weekend. This weekend starts the big push for us,” he said. “Villanova is undefeated in conference. They have outstanding pitching. If you look at their pitching stats, its almost scary.”The Wildcats currently lead the Big East in pitching with a 3.55 team ERA and .246 opponents’ batting average. The Irish fall in right behind the Wildcats in second with a team ERA of 3.55 and opponents batting average of .246.The Wildcats displayed some of that tough pitching in an unusual 0-0, 11-inning tie with LaSalle Tuesday night.The matchup with the Wildcats will prove to be the first home contest in league play for the Irish, and Mainieri is hoping to use the home-field advantage to remain undefeated in the Big East.”[Villanova is] 17-5 and 3-0 in the conference, so as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any bigger for us than this, this far in the season,” Mainieri said. “I’m hoping we’re going to have a really great crowd, some great weather and go out there and play three really great ball games this weekend.”Play begins at Frank Eck Stadium with a doubleheader at noon Saturday, followed by a single game at noon Sunday.