Notre Dame sent freshman Chris Vasami to the mound on Tuesday. Vasami threw two scoreless, hitless innings and looked to be cruising before getting into trouble in the third. Cougar hitters then managed five straight hits against Vasami, scoring three earned runs before Vasami could battle out of the inning.
The real story of the night was the lack of offense in the first four innings. Chicago State came into the game with a 14.59 team E.R.A., but the Irish reserves couldn't seem to figure out Cougar, Aaron Lang.
Mainieri, knowing how important wins are to his team at this point, inserted his regular starters who then brought out the whooping stick, going 11-for-20, with 3 home runs, 15 RBI and 15 runs in four innings of play.
The Irish were led by Matt Macri (3-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R), Javi Sanchez (3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 R), Matt Edwards (2-for-2, 4 RBI, R), Matt Bransfield (1-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) and Craig Cooper (1-for-3, HR (grand slam), 4 RBI, R) at the plate.
Irish Coach Paul Mainieri said he had to make the change in the fifth inning. "I hated to take those kids out," said Mainieri. "I wasn't upset with all of them. I thought there was a little bit of a lack of intensity. The bottom line is that we went through the lineup twice and had only one hit."
"I just felt like this team has worked too hard this year to get to this position," Mainieri continued. "At that point I felt it was necessary to put our regulars in there and start to score some runs. It worked out well for us in the end."
One Irish player who has been red hot lately is sophomore Craig Cooper. Cooper has hit his first three homeruns of his career in his last five games. "I'm in the earn it business and I've challenged Craig Cooper and he's responded to the challenge," Mainieri said. "I think he's earned the opportunity to play on a pretty regular basis. We'll probably stay with that combination with Rizzo in center and Cooper in right field for the foreseeable future."
Another player who's having a career year is third baseman Matt Macri. Not only is Macri hot at the plate, but he also made three Major League plays at third base on Sunday with his glove. "I could not be more thrilled for a player than I am for Matt Macri. That kid had so much hoopla when he got here. He had the injury and then he was rusty last year. He was kind of up and down. I think he's playing lights out right now and great for him. Expectations can be a terrible thing sometimes. It just nice to see him reap the rewards of his hard work."
The Irish return to action on Wednesday with a game against Valparaiso at Eck Stadium at 5:05 PM. "Tomorrow Jess Stewart will start. I'm not sure exactly how we are going to map it out. Probably Jeff Samardzija will get an inning. Probably Mike Dury will have a chance to get an inning too."
Some Irish regulars are really starting to find their groove at the plate at just the right time for Mainieri. Matt Macri (12-for-18, HR, 5 RBI, 12 R), Matt Bransfield (9-for-18, 3 HR, 11 RBI), Craig Cooper (10-for-16, 3 HR, 10 RBI) and Javi Sanchez (10-for-22, 6 RBI) have all been hitting the ball well their last five games. Matt Edwards (4-for-6, 5 RBI, R in the last two games) is starting to find his stroke lately and is hitting the ball hard every time at the plate.