June 17, 2002
By DOUG ALDEN
AP Sports Writer
The wind at Rosenblatt Stadium stood no chance against Notre Dame’s Brian Stavisky on Monday afternoon.
The outfielder hit a two-run homer into a 15 MPH crosswind in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Fighting Irish a 5-3 victory over Rice that kept them alive in the College World Series.
“My first thought was the wind would knock it down but it seemed to pierce the win,” Stavisky said of his ninth homer of the season. “I knew I hit it hard. When it went up into the stands it was the best feeling I’ve ever had on a baseball field.”
The Fighting Irish (50-17) reached the 50-win mark for the first time while staying alive in just their second CWS appearance.
Steve Stanley started the ninth-inning rally with a one-out triple and tied the game 3-3 on Steve Sollmann’s single up the middle. Stavisky then hit a 1-2 pitch over the fence in right as the Irish bolted from their dugout to celebrate at home plate.
“I’m not sure I can adequately describe what we just witnessed,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “I’d like to say I’m surprised at what happened in the bottom of the ninth inning, but I’m really not. I’ve watched these kids do it for the last three or four years.”
Mainieri had to leave the Irish after Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Stanford to be with his wife, whose father died Friday in Oregon, Ohio. Mainieri returned Omaha on Sunday night and Stanley dedicated Monday’s win to the coach.
“We wanted to give this one to him and we wanted to win just for our own confidence level,” Stanley said. “In my four years here we’ve never gone to a tournament and gone 2-and-out and I didn’t want to start that at the College World Series.”
The heroics of Stanley, Sollmann and Stavisky lifted a huge burden for reliever J.P. Gagne (9-4), who allowed a tiebreaking homer to pinch-hitter Mike Lorsbach in the seventh that gave Rice a 3-2 lead.
I knew I hit it hard. When it went up into the stands it was the best feeling I’ve ever had on a baseball field.Brian Stavisky
“I don’t know what the rest of my life would have been like,” Gagne said. “My approach to the game and my opinion of what was going on really changed after Steve scored in the bottom of the ninth.”
Rice’s Justin Crowder (10-3), who came on in relief with two outs in the third and allowed just two hits until the Irish’s ninth-inning rally, took the loss.
Austin Davis had a solo homer and RBI single for the Owls (52-14), who were two outs away from advancing after taking their first lead in the seventh on the homer Lorsbach, who grew up in Omaha.
“It’s been emotional all year, not just today,” Lorsbach said.
Notre Dame starter Chris Niesel allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings, but was pulled with two outs and nobody on in the seventh for Gagne. The move backfired when Lorsbach hit his fifth homer of the season, which barely cleared the wall in left center.
It was the first CWS pinch-hit homer since 1993, when Eddie Davis hit one for Long Beach State against Louisiana State.
The Owls, who lost to Texas 2-1 in the opening round, went 0-2 in the CWS and are 1-6 in three appearances.
“Things have a way of turning themselves around. Next time up here we’ll get a break,” coach Wayne Graham said.
Brian Stavisky swings and crushes the game-winning homer against Rice.
Davis hit a solo homer in fourth and tied the game in the sixth with an RBI single. The Owls had a chance to take the lead later in the inning with runners at first and second, but Stanley ended it with a great catch on Enrique Cruz’s shot to left-center. Stanley held on to the ball when he crashed into the wall.
Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead in the third when Andrew Bushey blooped a single into shallow center to score Stavisky, who barely beat the throw on a fielder’s choice and avoided an inning-ending double play.
Paul O’Toole hit another single and Matt Bok loaded the bases when he was hit by Philip Humber, who then walked in a run on four pitches.
Stanley tied the NCAA Division I record for games started Monday with his 255th. He will have a chance to break the mark Arizona’s Chip Hale set from 1984-87 in an elimination game Tuesday night.