June 2, 2002
South Bend, Ind. – Notre Dame (47-15) won its first-ever regional title and advanced in the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1957 with a 9-6 victory over Ohio State (38-20-1) in the South Bend regional championship game.
Second baseman Steve Sollmann had another outstanding game for the Irish on Sunday. The sophomore from Cincinnati, Ohio, followed up his record setting six for seven, six runs scored and seven RBI performance against South Alabama on Saturday by going four for five with two runs scored against Ohio State. Sollman was named the Mmost Valuable Player of the South Bend regional after the game.
The Buckeyes rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth off Notre Dame relievers Brandon Viloria and J.P. Gagne to cut the Irish lead down to 8-6, but Notre Dame came back for an insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Kris Billmaier led off with a double and scored on a Steve Stanley sacrifice fly.
Gagne worked an uneventful ninth inning to secure the win for Notre Dame.
The Irish also received another strong pitching performance from freshman Chris Niesel with six innings, two hits, two runs and four strikeouts to get the victory (3-0). Ohio State’s Nate Smith gave up 10 hits and seven runs in five innings, suffering his first loss of the season (6-1).
The South Bend regional all-tournament team: Grant Johnson, Notre Dame, pitcher; Scott Lewis, Ohio State, pitcher; Paul O’Toole, catcher, Notre Dame, Casey Ellis, first base, Kent State, Steve Sollman, second base, Notre Dame, Kevin Sytko, third base, South Alabama, Brett Garrard, shortstop, Ohio State, Steve Stanley, outfield, Notre Dame, Brian Stavisky, outfield, Notre Dame, Doug Deeds, outfield, Ohio State, Kris Billmaier, designated hitter, Notre Dame. MVP – Stever Sollmann, Notre Dame.