Bittersweet Saturday as Irish Take Two

Matt Macri (Notre Dame Sports Info)

The Notre Dame baseball team won a pair of games on Saturday against Villanova but the victories will be bittersweet. The Irish lost senior captain Steve Sollmann for an unknown amount of time in a collision out in right field that put a scare in the heart of every fan in Eck Stadium on Saturday. The prognosis for Sollmann looks good, but the victories will come at a cost for the Irish.

The day started off as a beautiful day at the ballpark at Eck stadium. 55 degrees, sunny and a packed crowd all excited to see the Irish.

It wasn't long until the wind, cold and misery set in—in more ways than just the weather.

The Irish won the first game 15-7 behind 16 hits, two homeruns and nine extra-base hits.

The Irish scored eight of their 15 runs in the second inning. Steve Andres led off the inning with a towering homer over the right field wall. Matt Bransfield also homered over the right field wall in the inning. The Irish were also fueled by a Matt Macri triple, a Steve Sollmann double, two singles by Javi Sanchez and a single by Cody Rizzo.

Thirteen Irish hitters went to the plate as the Irish exploded for eight runs in the second.

The Irish picked up two more runs in the third led by an RBI double by Sollmann and a RBI single by Steve Andres.

Villanova scored three in the top of the fourth narrowing the lead to 10-3, Irish.

The top of the fifth was a terrible inning for the Irish. Irish captain Steve Sollmann crashed into right fielder Cody Rizzo forcing both Sollmann and Rizzo from the game. Sollmann lied motionless for many minutes before being taken away by ambulance to the hospital.

The injuries to Sollmann and Rizzo shook the Irish noticeably with Sollmann taking the worst of the collision. Play would be paused for at least an hour with the continuation of the game in serious doubt.

Play resumed after a lengthy delay and the Irish looked like a shell-shocked team. The Wildcats scrapped together another three runs in the top of the sixth and looked to be on the verge of scoring more with runners on second and third with just one out.

Irish coach Paul Mainieri called on closer Ryan Doherty to bail his team out and Doherty delivered in just seven pitches striking out the next two batters to end the Wildcat threat.

Doherty's fire woke up the Irish and they scored another four runs in the bottom of the sixth to earn the 15-7 win.

The Irish were led by Sanchez (4-for-4, RBI, 2 R), Macri (2-for-3, 2 RBI, 3 R), Bransfield (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), Sollmann (2-for-3, RBI, R) and Andres (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI, R) at the plate.

Irish ace Chris Niesel (4-1) also earned his fourth win of the season.

The mentally-drained Irish had to find the will to play the second game of the double header without two of their better players.

Sophomore Tom Thornton was on the mound for the Irish and the lineup looked much different from the first game with both Sollmann and Rizzo out and shortstop Greg Lopez on the bench battling vision problems after getting a foreign object stuck in his eye.

The Wildcats plated a run in the top of the first of the second game when Wildcat designated hitter Danny Poydenis singled through the left side plating the first run of the game.

The Irish scored their first run of the game in the bottom of the second. Catcher Javi Sanchez reached after being hit by a pitch and later scored on a passed ball tying the game, 1-1.

The Wildcats took the lead when Thornton walked leadoff hitter Kris Malloy in the top of the third. Malloy stole second, stole third and later scored on a wild pitch giving the Wildcats the 2-1 lead.

The Irish scored three more in the fourth when Craig Cooper and Zach Sisko led off the inning with singles. Both players would later score on wild pitches. Marci would also score after reaching by walk on a Steve Andres RBI double giving the Irish the 4-2 lead.

The Irish and the Wildcats would each pick up another run in the sixth making it a 5-3 Irish lead.

The Wildcats tied the game when Adrian Schau led off the top of the eighth with a walk. Shortstop Brian Trotta would then take an 0-2 pitch and send it over the right field wall tying the game 5-5.

The game would go into extra innings and Wildcat Brian Newbold led off the 10th with a double. Mainieri once again called on closer Ryan Doherty and Doherty delivered. Doherty retired all three batters he faced ending the Wildcat threat.

The bottom of the 10th started with a Craig Cooper walk. Zack Sisko placed a sacrifice bunt moving Cooper into scoring position. The game ended when Matt Macri faced Wildcat closer Adrian Schau in a classic battle. Macri kept fouling off pitches until he found the pitch he liked, lining a ball into left field scoring Cooper for the 6-5 Irish victory.

Irish coach Paul Mainieri was still noticeably shaken after a long day for the Irish. "I'm trying to control my emotions because it's been a rough day," said Mainieri. "To see that happen to that kid, who is like a son to me, it was a very difficult thing to witness. He got hurt playing the game the way he plays it—100 percent, full speed, 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire and Cody Rizzo is the same kind of player."

Mainieri said it was a very scary scene when he ran out to help Sollmann "I saw a kid that wasn't responsive at all. He was out and it was really scary. I was just praying that he'd come to and he did eventually. When he moved his hands and moved his feet that settled another fear I had. Oh man, that was a heart-wrenching experience."

The key to both games was Ryan Doherty. Doherty came in and ended two Wildcat threats when things looked very bleak for the Irish. "I just felt like that we needed to get some velocity in there. If somebody could get the bat head out and get a ball up in that wind off 90-93 miles per hour, then they deserved it. Every time we've brought him in this year he's done a fantastic job for us."

Mainieri can't say enough good things about his closer. "He's a fearless kid out there. He just goes after the hitters. He's gotten some big outs for us this year."

The Irish will return to Eck Stadium today with the final game against Villanova. The Irish are will go with Grant Johnson on the mound. "We're going to go with Johnson. Samardzjia will be back from football practice tomorrow and hope for the best."

The extent of Sollmann's injury was not known by Mainieri, but reports were that Sollmann suffered a broken jaw. The loss of Sollmann will be difficult to overcome for the Irish. Sollmann is a captain and sets up the Irish offense with his speed on the bases. The Irish will have to find a way to win without one of their captains and best players.

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