Irish Hold On For Final Regular-Season Win

Javi Sanchez, Steve Sollmann and a number of seniors might've played their last game at Frank Eck Stadium on Sunday as the Irish defeated Virginia Tech, 2-1. Notre Dame (46-10, 20-6 in BIG EAST) has clinched the regular season BIG EAST championship and will now face Boston College on Thursday at 3:30 EDT in the BIG EAST Tournament play.

The Irish wanted to close out the regular season on a high note with a win on Saturday, and Javi Sanchez and some great pitching secured did just that.

Notre Dame started sophomore Tom Thornton on the mound. Thornton pitched five quality innings, allowing just one run on six hits, and held the Hokies to the lone run while the Irish tried to find their bats at the plate.

Freshman Jess Stewart then threw a scoreless sixth in relief as the Irish headed into the bottom of the sixth trailing 1-0.

Senior Javi Sanchez finally got the Irish going with a solo homerun over the left field wall. The Sanchez homer was just his second on the year and second in his career at Frank Eck Stadium.

The Irish picked up another run in the inning when left fielder Steven Andres walked after the Sanchez homer. The Irish then hit two straight singles before Danny Dressman smacked a ball to dead center giving the Irish their second run of the day on a sacrifice fly.

Irish coach Paul Mainieri then call on senior Joe Thaman who came in and threw two scoreless innings of relief before turning the one run gave over to closer Ryan Doherty.

Doherty pitched a perfect ninth in a one run game striking out two to end the game.

"I thought we really played well," said Irish coach Paul Mainieri after the game. "I just thought it would've been a real shame to not win that game after we bounced back after not playing so well yesterday. I wanted to see our team on a good emotional lift going out to the BIG EAST Tournament. I'm happy we held them off in the ninth inning."

It was a strange game for the Irish as they had the leadoff hitter on for five out the first six innings, but could only manage two runs in the game. "I tried everything, I tried bunting, I tried hit-and-run, I tried just letting the batter bat, their kid pitched out of some jams," Mainieri said. "I think was more their pitcher than it was our hitting."

"I thought Joe Thaman was the key to the game in the seventh and eighth innings," Mainieri continued. "I thought he pitched tremendous. He held them at bay and then we gave the ball over to the big guy."

Sanchez' homerun was also a special moment for Mainieri "I was just so happy for Javi. He's just a wonderful kid. He's obviously a great player, but just all his other attributes he has—his unselfishness, his commitment to the team. I was as thrilled as anybody."

"It was a special moment for me knowing this was going to be my last regular season game here for the Fighting Irish," said Sanchez of his homer. "It's been a great four years here, and to go out like that, with a win, to contribute to the win means a lot to me."

The Irish will now head into the BIG EAST Tournament with a game against Boston College. Thursday's game will feature two of the better BIG EAST pitchers going head-to-head—Boston College's Chris Lambert, and Irish junior Grant Johnson.

"I think that Thursday will be probably the biggest game in the country," said Mainieri. "There might be 100 scouts at that ballgame. It's going to be an awesome match up between Lambert and Johnson."


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