March 16, 2001
FRESNO, Calif. – Aaron Heilman turned in his second complete-game effort of the season while the Notre Dame offense erupted for six runs in the fourth inning, as the eighth-ranked Irish baseball team moved into the championship game at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic with a 9-5 victory over Illinois in Friday night action at Beiden Field.
Notre Dame (12-2-1)-off to the program’s best 15-game start since the 1959 team opened 13-2-will play in Saturday night’s championship game (7:00 PST) versus the University of Portland (10-10), which knocked off host Fresno State in Friday’s late game.
The only previous series meeting between the Irish and Pilots baseball squads also came at Beiden Field, with Notre Dame winning that 1989 NCAA West 2 Regional game (8-6).
Heilman (5-0) pushed his career record to 33-7, after scattering seven hits, no walks and two hit batters over the nine innings while striking out five Illini batters. Two of the three Illinois runs in the third inning were unearned, with the final two Illini runs coming in the eighth.
The Notre Dame offense shook off its early-inning struggles by scoring twice in the first inning and adding a run in the third before surging to a 9-0 lead in the fourth. The pivotal six-run output included a pair of bases-loaded walks and was capped by Kris Billmaier’s RBI single to left-center-ending the brief stint of righthanded starter Ryan Krasnicka.
Heilman’s strong outing leaves Notre Dame’s team ERA at 2.68, well below the 2000 squad’s 3.93 that ranked 16th in the nation (national stats have yet to be released for 2001).
Notre Dame’s 13 hits included five doubles, from Billmaier, Steve Stanley, Brian Stavisky, Andrew Bushey and Steve Sollmann.
Illinois (8-7) 0-0-0 0-3-0 0-2-0 – 9 13 1
#8 Notre Dame (12-2-1) 2-1-0 6-0-0 0-0-X 5 7 2
Ryan Kvasnicka (L, 0-1), Craig Lechowicz (4) and Patrick Arlis.
Aaron Heilman (W, 5-0) and Paul O’Toole.
Doubles: Steve Stanley (ND), Brian Stavisky (ND), Kris Billmaier (ND), Andrew Bushey (ND), Steve Sollmann (ND) and TF Meagher (Illinois).