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BASEBALL: Team takes two from Eagles

Joe Hettler | Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Notre Dame finally got what it needed to win – good pitching.

After dropping the opening game against Boston College Saturday, the Irish (16-14, 5-4) used two impressive pitching performances to take the series, winning the second game Saturday 3-2 and the only contest on Sunday 3-0. The wins put Notre Dame in fifth place in the Big East standings behind St. John’s (7-1), Boston College (7-3), Rutgers (6-3) and Villanova (6-4). “I was really proud of the guys, that they were able to come back against a really good ball club,” Irish head coach Paul Mainieri said. “I just thought we played really well in those last two games.”

Tom Thornton, who grew up in Middleboro, Mass., improved to 3-4 on the season by outdueling Boston College’s Joe Martinez in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Notre Dame’s big left-hander struck out five, walked zero and allowed just two earned runs. Martinez matched Thornton with nine innings and struck out 10, but allowed three runs, two of which were earned.

“I had a great week of preparation,” Thornton said. “In the game I still felt like my mechanics left a lot to be desired. …But I was able to make some clutch pitches when I needed to and the defense played well behind me. It was a total team effort.”

The Irish manufactured two runs in the second, thanks to RBI singles from Ross Brezovsky and Sean Gaston. Boston College tied the game with runs in the second and fourth before Matt Edwards provided Notre Dame with the go-ahead run on an RBI groundout.

In Sunday’s game, Jeff Manship fired three solid innings and Jeff Samardzija finished the job by logging the final six to push Notre Dame to victory. Manship, who is still recovering from elbow surgery and was on a pitch count, struck out one and gave up just three hits. Samardzija followed by holding Boston College to three hits during the final 18 outs.

“It took me a little while to get going,” Samardzija said. “I had those first few innings to get warm and then I went out there and felt kind of good. Fastball was working pretty well and I was using the off-speed to keep them off-balance a little bit.”

Besides pitching effectively, Manship reached the third inning for the first time this season, which was a good sign for the right-hander and Notre Dame.

“Just getting over that hump of two innings was a big accomplishment and I was able to do that,” Manship said. “I just have to keep building on it.”

In Saturday’s game, the Irish took the lead in the sixth when Alex Nettey drilled an RBI triple, putting the visitor’s in front 1-0. After Brett Lilley failed on a suicide squeeze, resulting in Nettey being thrown out at the plate, Edwards cranked an RBI double and later scored on a Craig Cooper single.

Mainieri credited his infield defense for improved play in the second and third games. Before game two, Mainieri moved freshman second baseman Lilley to third base and Brezovsky to second. The moved paid off as Lilley made several outstanding plays in both games to keep the Eagles off the basepaths.

“Lilley’s about the only guy we haven’t tried at third yet and I just had a gut feeling he could do it, even though he had practiced a minimal amount at third base before this weekend,” Mainieri said. “Boy, we put him over at third base and during the last two games, he must have made seven or eight really good plays.”

“I don’t know if we win those two games without Brett Lilley playing third base.”

Boston College took the opener 8-2 behind potent production from its No. 3 and No. 4 hitters. Jared McGuire and Jason Delaney combined to go 7-for-8 with five RBIs. Cooper finished 2-for-3 and Dan Kapala took the loss after allowing seven runs and five earned during his 71-pitch outing.

The Irish return to Frank Eck Stadium for a matchup against Bowling Green on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.