The Irish started the game with Grant Johnson on the mound. Johnson's start would be the first time he was allowed to throw breaking pitches in a game, and what a difference a breaking pitch can make. Johnson threw four innings of hitless, scoreless ball to pick up his first win of the season.
The Irish got to work early in the game scoring six runs in the first inning. The Irish were fueled by RBI singles by Matt Bransfield, Javi Sanchez, Greg Lopez and Craig Cooper. They also got a sacrifice fly out of right fielder Cody Rizzo to give the Irish the 6-0 lead.
The Irish were led by Matt Macri (2-for-5, RBI, 3 R), Matt Edwards (2-for-4, RBI, R), Matt Bransfield (2-for-4, 3 RBI, R) and Craig Cooper (2-for-3, RBI, 2 R) at the plate on Sunday.
The story of the day, however, was the return of the real Grant Johnson. Johnson looked like a different pitcher with the ability to throw breaking pitches. "I feel good," said Johnson after his performance. "Everything fell right back in synch. I lost my control a little bit, but for the most part everything felt really good."
Johnson said he was happy to be able to use his entire arsenal on Sunday. "It really boosts your confidence. You trust your other stuff a little bit more because there's another pitch they have to think about. It was a lot better to have my breaking ball this time and hopefully it'll just improve over the year."
Johnson says he's not 100 percent back, yet. "Right now, with the breaking ball and all my pitches, I'm probably maybe 85-90 percent back. I feel strong. It's just a matter of using my breaking balls all the time. That's pretty much all I have left to get back."
"It was good to extend him," said Mainieri about Johnson's performance. "We wanted him to throw 60 pitches and he threw 63 pitches so that worked out well. Hopefully Grant will continue to build up some endurance and get better. Hopefully in a short time he'll be able to give us a good, solid outing as a starting pitcher."
The story of the weekend, however, was the loss of senior captain Steve Sollmann, and how the Irish came back from that adversity for the sweep of Villanova. "I don't know if I've ever been more proud of a group of kids as this group—how they handled everything this weekend," said Irish coach Paul Mainieri. "I'm just really, really proud of the guys."
Despite the loss of Sollmann the Irish are setting very good right now with a 22-3 record and a 6-0 record in BIG EAST play. Mainieri said his team made a statement these first few weekends of conference play. "I'm really happy to be 6-0 in league and to have the record we have. I feel we've kind of made a statement that we're the team that people have to chase. I feel pretty good about where we're at right now."
Sollmann will have surgery on Monday in Cincinnati to repair his broken jaw according to Mainieri "They're going straight to the hospital and then he's going to have surgery tomorrow on his broken jaw."
Mainieri said he had no idea if Sollmann would be back this season. "The last thing on my mind was that he'd play again for us. Last night people were telling me that people can come back in five or six weeks from a broken jaw. If anybody can do it, it would be Sollmann. He's the toughest kid I've ever known. We let the doctors monitor it. If it gets to a point where he can play again, great. If he can't then we'll just have to accept it. "
Zach Sisko has been the replacement for Sollmann, but Mainieri is not sure that is a permanent solution at this point. "I'm still toying with the possibility of maybe putting Javi out there and catching Sean Gaston. Sean Gaston was not available to us this weekend because on Thursday he had a badly sprained thumb. We'll kind of see how Sean's thumb comes around. We'll probably give a little work there. I have a lot of confidence in Zach. I think he did a good job today."