Craig Cooper and Cody Rizzo each slammed a two-run homer and Wade Korpi pitched another gem as the Irish beat the Rockets 8-2 at Frank Eck Stadium. In the process, Notre Dame (28-8) won their 18th contest in a row, tying the record held by the 1991 Irish team. They'll get a chance to break it tomorrow when they face IPFW.
"The guys want to break it," head coach Paul Mainieri said. "I actually had not mentioned the streak one time to the guys until yesterday at practice. Then we talked about it and decided to try to break this thing.
"When the streak started, we just wanted to win some games in a row. We had a big series against Pittsburgh, a big series against St. John's with huge implications for the Big East standings. Now, that we're ranked and making a run to get a bid, the last thing on our minds was the streak until yesterday. I put a little pressure on them but I thought they played relaxed today."
It took Notre Dame a little while to even record a hit. Toledo pitcher Mike Ellis held the Irish hitless until the fifth inning when Rizzo lined a base hit into right field. Cooper came up to the plate next and deposited Ellis's pitch out of the stadium. For Cooper, the dinger meant his hitting streak extended to 17 games and the home run was his sixth of the season. Later in the fifth, Sean Gaston rocketed a base knock into right field scoring Matt Dressman to make it 3-1 Notre Dame but Ross Brezovsky was thrown out at the plate by a perfect throw from the Rockets' Joel Visser.
Rizzo made another impact an inning later. After Nettey was hit by a pitch from Toledo's Dan Gatins, the senior outfielder lined a shot well over the left field wall to increase the lead to 5-1. It was Rizzo's third home run on the season and 17th of his career. The Irish added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth to put the game out of reach.
"Cooper has been pretty consistent but it seems like a different hero every day," Mainieri said. "Rizzo hasn't been swinging the bat all that great but he came up and hit the big home run for us. He gave us a little breathing room."
Korpi (4-1) again delivered an efficient outing. The sophomore left hander shut down Toledo (16-16) in eight innings of work, allowing four hits and just one run. The only run allowed by Korpi was on a passed ball in the fourth inning. After this, he allowed only one runner to advance past second base and was in total command out on the mound. Korpi lowered his ERA to a miniscule 1.53.
"He did to Toledo today what he's been doing to everyone all season long," Mainieri said. "He was changing speeds and throwing strikes. He might be the best fourth starter in the country. His numbers…you could put those up against anyone. He pitched great for us and kept us in it until the bats starting to get going."