Irish Sweep Hoyas

<P>The Notre Dame baseball team had a great weekend taking three games from Georgetown and improving their overall record to 16-6 and their BIG EAST record to 5-1. The Irish are on a seven game winning streak and their pitching has been the reason. </P>

Notre Dame opened the first game with Chris Niesel on the mound. Niesel has been outstanding lately (1.19 ERA, 2-0, 38K, 3 walks in the last four games) and threw a complete game with seven solid innings for the Irish. He allowed six hits, two runs and two earned runs with only one walk and nine strikeouts to pick up the win.

The Irish offense pounded out 12 hits and was led by their first four hitters in Steve Sollmann (1-for-4, 2 runs), Brennan Grogan (2-for-4, 2 runs, RBI), Matt Edwards (2-for-4, 3 RBI, 1 run) and Kris Billmaier (3-for-4, 2 RBI). The Irish scored two in the third and four in the fourth to give Niesel all the runs he would need to secure the win.

Box Score

The second game featured John Axford (5-0) on the mound. Axford pitched six innings and struggled early before finding his control. Axford ended his outing striking out the last four batters he faced to pick up the win. Axford allowed only three hits, two runs and two earned runs while striking out eight Hoya batters. Brandon Viloria threw a strong seventh inning and Cody Wilkins finished out the game throwing the final two innings as the Irish exploded for 13 runs in the 13-3 win.

The Irish offense got started early as Steve Sollmann (4-for-4, 4 runs, 3 RBI, 3 SB) singled in the first. He stole second, moved to third on a fielder's choice and was knocked in on a Matt Edwards (1-for-3, 1 run, 4 RBI) sacrifice fly to plate the first Irish run.

The Hoyas started the third with center fielder Timmy Jones reaching on an error. Third baseman Danny Gronski then reached on a walk and first baseman Jim Supple placed a nice bunt for a single to load the bases. Second baseman Matt Carullo then hit a shot to right center scoring Jones and Gronski to give the Hoyas the 2-1 lead.

Notre Dame picked up two in the bottom of the third as Sollmann and Brennan Grogan (1-for-3, 2 runs) led off with walks. Sollmann scored as Matt Edwards reached on an error and Grogan scored on a Javi Sanchez (3-for-4, 1 run) single to right field.

Sollmann lived up to his lead off role in the fifth as he placed a perfect bunt single to get on and an error on the throw put him on second. He stole third and then scored on a pass ball giving the Irish the 4-2 lead.

Notre Dame exploded in the sixth plating nine Irish runners to break the game open. The Irish got going with a Cody Rizzo walk and he advanced to second on a Steve Burns wild pitch. Greg Lopez then dropped a single into centerfield advancing Rizzo to third. Hoya pitcher Steven Burns was then called for a balk scoring Rizzo and advancing Lopez to second.

Reliable Steve Sollmann came up to the plate and knocked in Lopez with a line drive to right. Number two hitter Brennan Grogan singled to center advancing Sollmann to third. Hoya pitcher Burns continued his tough day with a wild pitch scoring Sollmann and advancing Grogan to second. The Irish then had three straight singles by Edwards, Billmaier and Sanchez scoring Grogan. Shortstop Matt Macri then walked scoring Edwards and Craig Cooper hit a fly to right that was dropped by the Hoya right fielder scoring Billmaier and Sanchez. Greg Lopez then walked and Sollmann ripped a double down the right field line scoring Cooper and Lopez.

The Irish ended the sixth with seven hits, scoring 9 runs and three walks.

The Hoyas added a third run in the ninth with a Timmy Jones homerun but the damage had been done. The Hoya staff ended a dreadful night with nine earned runs, eight walks, four wild pitches and plunking three Irish batters.

Box Score

The strong pitching continued on Sunday as senior Ryan Kalita (3-0, 10-0 career) threw six very strong innings allowing only two hits and zero runs while striking out six to pick up the win. Kalita pitched a gem and looked strong enough to finish the game.

Martin Vergera, Matt Laird and J.P. Gagne finished the final three innings holding off a late Hoya rally for the 12-5 Irish win.

The Irish offense got going quickly as freshman Brennan Grogan (2-for-4, run, RBI) hit a triple over the right fielder's head in the bottom of the first. Matt Edwards (3-for-4, 2 RBI,run) continued his RBI terror singling through the hole at short scoring Grogan giving the Irish the 1-0 lead.

Notre Dame scored three in the second with Javi Sanchez leading off with a walk. Shortstop Matt Marci then singled through the hole at short. Cody Rizzo (1-for-2, 3 RBI, run) placed a bunt and reached on a fielder's choice loading the bases. Steve Sollman (2-for-4, RBI, run) continued with his hot bat hitting another single through the hole at short scoring Sanchez.

Grogan was issued a walk scoring Marci and Edwards added his second RBI with a single through the same hole at short scoring Rizzo giving the Irish the 4-0 lead.

The Irish scored two more in the third with Rizzo reaching by walk. Rizzo stole second and scored on a Steve Andres single up the middle. Andres scored when freshman Greg Lopez (2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI, run) doubled to right center giving the Irish the 6-0 lead.

First baseman Matt Edwards doubled in the fourth starting a 3-run inning. Javi Sanchez was awarded first after being hit by a pitch and Matt Marci walked loading the bases. Freshman Rizzo then hit a bases-clearing triple scoring all three runs in the fourth giving the Irish the 9-0 lead.

The Hoyas fought back scoring two unearned runs in the seventh but the Irish scored two more in the bottom of the seventh led by a Sollmann double down the left field line giving the Irish the 11-2 lead.

Georgetown added three more in the eighth but J.P. Gagne closed out the ninth without allowing a run giving the Irish the 3-0 BIG EAST sweep.

Coach Mainieri picked up his 700th win with the 6-2 Irish victory in the first game against Georgetown. Mainieri was in high spirits and excited about his team after the sweep. "It was a great weekend for us," said Mainieri. "We did what we had to do all weekend. We had another outstanding pitching performance by Ryan Kalita. We had three really outstanding starting pitching performances and any time you get that on a BIG EAST weekend, you feel good about that."

Mainieri was also impressed with his team's defense and hitting this weekend. "Matt Edwards had not swung the bat well the last four or five games and I thought this weekend he really came through in the clutch. Cody Rizzo and Brennan Grogan, we had several guys who really came through with the bats. Overall, our defense was pretty good when you consider how cold it was out there."

Mainieri also spoke about how much he takes pride when his defense plays well. "That's one thing we take a lot of pride in is how good of defensive teams we have had. When you have great pitching but you don't catch the ball behind them, it negates the strength of your team. Pitching and defense go right along with each other. When you don't hit well during the course of the year if your pitching and defense are there then you still got a chance to win the ballgame. Winning teams play good defense and our kids take a lot of pride in their defense."

Mainieri's teams like to put pressure on the opposing team and the Irish pressured the Hoya pitching staff all series. The Irish were very aggressive early in the games on the bases. "If we get a lead we feel like we can put some pressure on the other team with our pitching; they have to come back against our pitching. It's also just the philosophy of the way I like to see the game played. I'm not one to have our guys back on their heels waiting for things to happen. I want to be very proactive and put the pressure on the other team."

The Irish put a lot of pressure on the Hoyas. Notre Dame grabbed the early lead in all three games and put the pressure on the Hoya hitters to come from behind against a very good Irish pitching staff.

Highlights and stats

Second baseman Steve Sollmann was 7-for-14, 7 runs, 4 RBI and 3 stolen bases for the series.

First/third baseman Matt Edwards was 6-for-11, 9 RBI, 3 runs for the series.

Freshman Brennan Grogan was 5-for-11, 5 runs, 2 RBI for the series

The Irish starters on the pitching staff have a 2.84 ERA led by Ryan Kalita (1.82), John Axford (2.31) and Chris Niesel (3.12).

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Notre Dame hosts Detroit on Tuesday and Valparaiso on Wednesday and go on the road over the weekend with a double-header at Boston College on Friday and a double-header with St. Johns on Sunday.


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