Notre Dame Splits Soggy Twin Bill

Due to the weather I missed the final four innings of yesterdays Irish game against Cincinnati. The Irish decided to move the doubleheader up because of rain headed towards South Bend. It was for the best though since they gave up four runs in the ninth and lost. I did get to Notre Dame in time to see the second game though. The Irish played the last two innings of the second game in a soaking rain. That may have contributed to the two runs they gave up in the top of the ninth to tie the game up. All that did though was set up David Mills to be the hero. He hit a walk off home run to left field to win the game for the Irish. What is it with teams I like hitting walk offs lately? This could be a fun year for baseball.

Flyers Check the Railcats on Hockey Night

On a night where I was more concerned about seeing former Irish pitcher Tom Thornton and former major leaguer Felix Jose another player sprung up to steal the show. Former South Bend Silverhawk Richard Mercado got on base four out of five times last night, and really stole the show. I was focused on Jose in the on deck circle when I heard his name. It sounded familiar, and when I saw him I realized he was the former Hawk. Fitting that he would steal the show on the night the Hawks of the hockey world were featured. He is shown to the left rapping out his first inning RBI single. He has a nice swing, and was a pleasure to watch again. One player that I had never seen play before was Felix Jose. Felix played eleven years in the big leagues for the Athletics, Cardinals, Yankees, Royals, and the Diamondbacks. He also spent some time playing in South Korea. This man has had a good run. Why would he be riding buses in the Northern League playing for the Schaumburg Flyers? At tender age of 44 no less? Your answer is as good as mine. He was batting fifth, but swung the bat like a ninth place hitter. Let me take that back. He made contact like a ninth place hitter. He swung hard, but was off much of the time. He went 0-5 on the night. His first two at bats were not only strikeouts, but strikeouts that made him look very bad. He did reach on an error in the fifth inning. The picture to the right shows him striking out in the first. He just seemed a little slow on the fastball. Who am I to judge. I am 12 years his junior, and I couldn’t catch up to the high heat.

The Railcats lost the game 5-2, and much of the blame for that loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Tom Thornton. Tom was the ace of the 2006 Notre Dame pitching staff that featured Jeff Samardzija and Jeff Manship. It was looking into where he ended up that started the minor league update feature on this blog. I was excited when I saw that he would be starting for the Railcats. He got off to a slow start by giving up three runs in the first two innings. It could have been much worse. He gave up seven hits in the first three innings. He seemed to settle down though pitching a good fourth inning, and pitching out of a jam in the fifth. He gave up two more runs in the sixth, and the former Irish star was pulled from the game with two outs in the seventh. It was still nice to see him pitch, and I hope that he works out whatever he is going through right now. He had the stuff to make some hitters look silly, and then he would just leave a pitch over the plate to the next hitter. He will get to pitch in the Northern League Playoffs this year though thanks to the turnaround the team made since the beginning of the season.

Let the Madness Begin!

Tonight on the way to Minneapolis we decided to stop over in Beloit to watch the last couple innings of the Beloit Snappers game against the South Bend Silverhawks. We are still on the road, and I am way too tired to do a game recap. The Silverhawks won 6-5, and I got my first chance to see A.J. Pollack play. A.J. was the highest draft pick ever out of Notre Dame. Tomorrow we will be in Midway Stadium watching the Saints play a game. When I can open my eyes I will write more.

Draft Day Notes

In a day where everyone is talking about Stepen Strasburg I found a couple of gems in the MLB Draft. The first one is A.J. Pollock. A.J. was part of a great class that came into Notre Dame in 2007. They had a ton of good outfielders, and he of course was one of them. From day one he has proven that he can be a great centerfielder as well as a good hitter. Leading up to the draft had him as the top defensive center fielder out there. I was hoping he would fall to the White Sox, but he was snatched up too quickly. He was taken 17th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks. That is the highest that a Notre Dame baseball player has ever been taken in the draft. He did not make it to the Sox though. That is okay because in the not too distant future I will be able to see him play in South Bend. Good luck to A.J. as he starts his pro career.

The White Sox did draft one player of interest to me though. Dan Black of Purdue was taken in the 14th round (433rd player overall) of the draft. Dan was a force at Purdue while playing first base. In college you do not see many home runs hit, but Dan hit quite a few in the limited games that I was able to see. He is second overall in Purdue history in home runs and RBI’s, and hit .313 for his collegiate career. Dan also tied the Big Ten season record for walks with 62 this year. He was not a player the opposing pitchers wanted to face. He will now be wearing a White Sox uniform. That makes me feel pretty good. Here is a picture taken this year of Dan during the Black/Gold game weekend. As you can see he already was wearing the right colors.

My Favorite Games: #3

As I said yesterday the next three games all came from the 2006 season. It is also another Cubs game at Wrigley field. The one redeeming quality is that the Cubs were playing the White Sox. The game was played on July 1, 2006. It was the Fox game of the week, and the Cubs owned the Sox most of the game. This was shortly after the Barrett sucker punch game that was featured earlier in the countdown. Needless to say the tensions were high between the fans all game. I had my Sox jersey on, and I was just ripped on all game long.
The Sox sent Javier Vazquez on the hill against Greg Maddux. Vazquez gave up 5 runs in six innings off 11 hits including a 3 run blast by Aramis Ramirez. Maddux did not fare much better he gave up four runs in six innings off of 10 hits. Thome hit a two run homer, and Crede hit a solo shot off of Greg. Konerko added a Solo shot off of Eyre in the 7th to pull the Sox a little closer. The real magic happened in the ninth inning though. The Cubs brought in Ryan Dempster to close the game. The Sox started a two out rally that brought some hope to the Sox fans in the crowd. A.J. Pierzynski who had been getting booed all day stepped into the batters box. After the brawl he was a marked man at Wrigley. He pulled a Dempster pitch down the right field line and out of the park for a three run homer that put the Sox ahead. The Sox fans (including me) went crazy. The Cubs fans took it up a notch from us. They were so frustrated with how the season was going that they started throwing things on the field. Jerseys, cups, hot dogs it didn’t matter it went on the field. The last picture on here is off the grounds crew picking up the mess. I have never seen fans so upset with their team. I have a video that I took with my camera that day that shows most of the madness. I was on cloud nine. We did not just beat our rival, but we demoralized them. Before 2006 every Cubs/Sox game that I went to the bad guys won. This was part of the magical year of 2006 for me. Future Cub Neil Cotts had pitched the eighth so he got the win, and Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect ninth (after a delay to clean the field) to get the save. This was a great game that would be number one on my countdown except for two exceptional games.
When I go to another teams stadium I am a low key fan. I know how much I hate fans from other teams that come to my park and act obnoxious. I went against my own unwritten rule at this game. I was on fire letting Cub fans have it. I had an El trip to the South Shore train, and for that two and a half hours I was a walking mouthpiece. I had heard Cub fans rip my Sox for the whole train ride there, and the majority of the game. I snapped and gave a little back to the Cub fans. That is a little out of character for me, but in a way it is totally me.

Hard To Take

Today I was buying some things after a workout and picked up a couple packs of 2007 Topps Heritage. This is one of the first cards that I pulled out of the pack. It is so hard to see him wearing Cubbie blue. I watched him play both football and baseball at Notre Dame, and he quickly became one of my favorite players. He was a great receiver who could run after the catch. He was also not afraid to make the big play. On the baseball field he was strong, but probably only the third best pitcher on his team. That is an unfair comparison since he was only playing baseball as a hobby when football was out of season. Notre Dame had a great marketing strategy in 2006 when he pitched a game against Rutgers on a Friday night, and then on Saturday played in the Blue-Gold Football game. He was a great two sport athlete that I think made the right choice as far as longevity goes in baseball.
All of that being said I will have to root against Jeff’s team until he gets traded or moves away from the Cubs. It is hard to root for a Cub. I hope he has a long, successful career in the majors as long as it is with another team. By the way where is Harry Carey to pronounce this name? That could last a couple innings. Samardzija spelled backwards is ajizdramas. I think Ron Jeremy stars in ajizdramas. That is not too blue is it? Now I look at the post title and think, “What will people think?” Oh well, go White Sox.

Notre Dame 17 – West Virginia 6

Immediately following the Blue/Gold game I went over to the baseball stadium to watch the Irish take on the Mountaineers. The record crowd saw the Irish explode for 17 runs. By the end of the game it was actually starting to get boring with all of the runs scored. Freshman A.J. Pollack had another big game for the Irish. He reached base all six times he was up. He went 3 for 3, and had three walks. He hit a home run and drove in six. Mike Dury hit his team leading seventh home run for the Irish as well. The team looks to be turning a corner. The Irish looked like the team I have seen the last couple of years that will strike early and often. Hopefully the last few games are showing a trend that will continue.

What a Game!

I always try and make it to any major college sporting event involving Purdue and Notre Dame. Today I was glad that I made the time to get over to South Bend to see the Boilers take on the Irish. Both starting pitchers had great games. Elam for the Irish went 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball. He walked a few, and needed a great play by Brett Lilley to keep a run from scoring, but pitched a great game. The lone hit against him was a weak single hit straight up the middle. Bischoff for the Boilermakers pitched a great game as well. He gave up a hit to the first batter in the ninth. The hit was similar to the one that broke up Elam’s no-hit bid. That little bloop hit took away his shot at a perfect game. At the begining of the week I had a feeling that I might see a no-hitter. I figured it would be Vazquez against the Rangers, but I had two shots foiled with less than four outs tonight. The Irish are now two games over .500, and the loss puts the Boilers at the same mark. This was my first Boiler game of the year. I was supposed to see the doubleheader against Indiana after my race on Saturday, but the weather once again stepped in to foil my plans. Notre Dame won the game in the tenth when Weglarz doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on a Dressman single. All of this was with two outs, and the frozen crowd praying for a miracle.

Edit: Something is wrong with blogger tonight, and my picture will not upload. If I have time I will fix that tomorrow.

Another Edit: Unless the Sox pitch back to back no-hitters, I will not see one tomorrow. Mark Buehrle just pitched a no-no for the Sox. All week long I have been talking about seeing a no-hitter with my dad. I guess we were one game too late in seeing one

Notre Dame 17 – Western Michigan 9

As you can see by the score today’s ballgame was a defensive battle. 26 runs were scored on 35 hits. If you throw in the five errors, 13 walks, and 4 batters hit by pitch you can see how many players were on the basepaths. The star of the day was freshman A.J. Pollack. The third baseman went 5-6 with two runs batted in. He also hit a home run in the third inning that barely cleared the fence, but only because it never got very far off of the ground. In a day were the wind was blowing out hard straight away, his home run was far from wind aided. With all of the baserunners both teams went through a lot of pitchers. It is a good thing the Irish will have a couple of days rest before they open the Big East season on Friday. The players legs must be sore from running the bases tonight. On a side note today was the first time that I was able to see Evan Sharpley play for the Irish. Evan is a backup first baseman on the baseball team, and was the backup quarterback for the Irish football sqad. Right now he is going through spring drills, and the regular baseball season. In his only at bat he hit a line drive that the shortstop dove and caught. After the shortstop caught the ball he rolled over and touched second for a double play. Evan hit the ball well, but right at a shortstop that was keeping the runner close at second. Today was even warmer than yesterday, and was another great day for baseball. I can only hope that the rest of the spring is like this.

Notre Dame 5 – Cleveland State 3

The first home game of the Dave Schrage era was won by the Fighting Irish today in South Bend. This is not the same Irish team that was on this field last year. All three of the weekend starters are gone. That number includes Jeff Samardzija who is playing baseball in the Cubs organization. Six of the nine everyday position players are also gone. This is a very young team that is having trouble at the start of the season. Five freshmen started today’s game for Notre Dame. Since 1987 Notre Dame has won every Big East Championship but one. They will have to really gel quickly if they want to get another one. They beat a team that was 2-12 coming in to get their record to 9-9 for the year.
One of the most impressive returnees is Junior Brett Lilley. He is the leadoff man, and the spark of the offense. In his short career he has already been hit by pitch 60 times. That is good enough for 10th in NCAA history. He is solid in the field as well, but switched back to shortstop this year. That is what makes what happened today so hard to believe. He made 2 errors in the first three innings. He also bobbled the ball on a sure double play that cost the Irish another run. The Irish defense settled down after that, and watched the Vikings commit 5 errors. Freshman Brayden Ashdown drove in two runs for the Irish, and got in a rundown that allowed another run to score. He was caught trying to steal in the 2nd, but stayed in the rundown long enough for Ross Brezovsky to score from third. The flags were blowing in very hard today, but Ashdown hit a long bomb down the left field line that was just foul. He is not the biggest guy on the team, but he looks like he can hit. These freshmen will be fun to watch as they develop.
Weather permitting I will be back at Eck Stadium tomorrow to watch the Irish take on Western Michigan. Today’s weather was beautiful. I got to the game a little early to watch the pregame, and sat back and had a hot dog. The temperature was in the low 50′s, and the sun felt great. The problem with baseball this early in the year though is that when the sun starts to go down it gets cold quickly. By the time I left, the combination of wind and cold was starting to get to the crowd, and it appeared the players as well.