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Baseball: Cooper’s double ignites Notre Dame offense in victory

Kyle Cassily | Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Notre Dame first baseman Craig Cooper pulled two doubles down the left field line and ignited a first-inning rally to propel Notre Dame (18-8) over Chicago State (3-17) 6-4 Tuesday at Frank Eck Stadium.

Cooper’s double to open the game sparked a four-run Notre Dame first inning. He followed it up in the sixth with an RBI line drive off the glove of diving Chicago State third baseman Randy Bernosky to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 5-3. It was Cooper’s 40th career double.

With Cooper’s first inning double, he reached base safely for the 14th time in 17 leadoff at-bats this season (.823 on-base percentage). He is hitting .769 at the top of the order with five doubles, one home run, three walks and a hit by pitch.

“I’ve always liked a hitter in the leadoff spot that was a slugger,” Irish head coach Paul Mainieri said of Cooper. “Because if he leads off the game with a double or a home run or something, right away it puts pressure on the other team.

“It kind of sets a tone for the game that you’ve got an aggressive team that’s going to attack the opposition.”

Notre Dame freshman Brett Graffy earned his first career win after 5 1-3 innings of work in relief of lefty starter David Gruener.

Graffy entered the game in the top of the third with two outs and runners on first and second as Notre Dame held to a 4-3 lead. He allowed one run in the relief appearance.

Graffy worked out of the jam by forcing Cougar left fielder Chris Freshour to fly out to Notre Dame right fielder Danny Dressman.

Mainieri originally planned to pitch Gruener for three innings and give Graffy the same workload before going to David Phelps and Kyle Weiland to close out the game. But Chicago State’s bats forced Mainieri to keep Graffy in the game until the Weiland pitched the ninth.

“[Graffy] was pitching so well that I just let him keep going,” Mainieri said. “I thought Graffy pitched with a lot of emotion out there and a lot of fire, made some big pitches.”

The Irish did not waste Cooper’s leadoff double after a scoreless Chicago State first inning.

Dressman (3-for-4, one RBI, one walk) pulled a single to right field to move Cooper to third base. Notre Dame shortstop Jeremy Barnes’ walk loaded the bases before designated hitter Sean Gaston scored Cooper on a fielder’s choice to third base.

Notre Dame second baseman Ross Brezovsky (2-for-3, 2 RBIs, one walk) followed Gaston with a two-run triple to right centerfield – giving Notre Dame a 3-0 advantage.

Irish left fielder Steve Andres’ one-hop single to right over the head of 6-foot-5 Cougar first baseman Raven Jackson scored Brezovsky and extended the lead to 4-0.

“In all honesty, we had a couple of base running mistakes, but other than that I thought we played a pretty decent game,” Mainieri said. “I thought Chicago State is a much improved program, and they played extremely well and made it a tough game.”

Chicago State pitcher Jonathan Kohn pitched an eight-inning complete game, allowing six earned runs, 11 hits, five walks and three strikeouts. Kohn threw 137 pitches against Notre Dame after a 161-pitch outing in 7 1-3 innings against Kansas State March 28.

“That’s amazing,” Mainieri said of Kohn’s pitch totals. “He was a real challenge for us. We get teams pitching their ace against us, and we’re using our guys that are young kids that are trying to get experience. So I thought our kids really met the challenge very well today.”

The Cougars cut into the four-run deficit in the second inning on an RBI groundout by catcher Cody Sandzimier with runners on second and third.

RBI singles by Bernosky and center fielder Chris Goya forced Gruener from the mound in the third inning with Notre Dame leading 4-3.

Cooper drove Notre Dame center fielder Alex Nettey home with his deflected double in the sixth and was immediately followed by a Dressman RBI single to left field to score Irish catcher Cody Rizzo that gave Notre Dame a 6-3 lead.

The Cougars were able to muster a one-run seventh but could not secure a hit against Graffy in the eighth or Weiland in the ninth. Sandzimier scored the run on an RBI groundout by John Torres to move the tally to the final of 6-4.

Cooper helped the Irish escape further damage in the seventh inning when Cougar shortstop Roc Latino popped up near the first base dugout. After making the catch, Cooper doubled up the runner tagging from second.

Weiland secured his seventh save on the season with a perfect ninth inning, striking out the first two Cougars faced.

The Irish pitcher was roughed up in an eighth inning appearance last Saturday against Pittsburgh when he allowed two earned runs on two hits before working out of the jam.

“He just hasn’t gotten on the mound enough times,” Mainieri said of Weiland. “So we were definitely going to throw Weiland today no matter what, and we want to see if he can bounce back again tomorrow and pitch an inning against Ball State.”

The Irish head back into action today against Ball State at 5:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium.


u The Kohn breaking ball that hit Rizzo in the second inning was the 75th time the catcher has been hit by a pitch in his Notre Dame career. That vaulted him into sole possession of third place in the all-time NCAA career hit-by-pitch tally, surpassing Texas’ Jeff Ontiveros (74). Gabe Somaribba of Florida Atlantic holds second place (81) and San Francisco’s Tony Hurtado is the career leader (92).

“They try to jam him sometimes and he doesn’t back down,” Mainieri said of Rizzo’s record. “He just takes it for the team. Believe me, I don’t encourage him to do it – I don’t even like him to do it – but it’s just one of those parts of the game. Thank goodness he doesn’t get hurt.”

u Notre Dame starter Wade Korpi and Cooper were named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll this week. Korpi pitched a three-hit, 11 strikeout, complete game shutout of Western Michigan on Mar. 29 to earn recognition. Cooper hit .529 with a home run, two doubles and three RBIs in five games last week.