April 24, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Bowling Green’s Kelly Hunt and Notre Dame’s Kris Billmaier traded solo home runs in the sixth – and what proved to be the final – inning, as the Irish emerged Wednesday night from rain-soaked Eck Stadium with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Falcons.
The game started one hour late (at 7:05) due to rain before a torrential downpour hit the field at 8:45, with Bowling Green batting in the top of the seventh. The game ultimately was called as the heavy and gusting rains continued, with BG’s first two at-bats in the seventh versus senior Drew Duff being erased from the boxscore (as the game reverted back to the sixth).
Notre Dame (29-12) posted its 20th win in the last 22 games while pushing its winning streak to 11 games, equaling the third-longest streak in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era (behind a 13-game run in 1998 and the 16-game streak in 2001 that ranks third in the program’s 110-year history).
Junior righthander Ryan Kalita (2-0) was touched for just two runs in six innings of work, with his 111-pitch outing including four hits, three walks and six strikeouts. Kalita has allowed just three earned runs in his last six outings, good for a 1.42 ERA in that 19-inning stretch (his overall season ERA dropped to 2.70).
Billmaier played a key role in the win, batting 2-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt while raising his season batting average to .296. The junior rightfielder delivered the game’s biggest hit with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, redirecting a 3-1 pitch from freshman righthanded reliever Matt Hundley (1-3) over the opposite rightfield wall for his second home run of the season and the ninth of his young Irish career.
Hunt had tied the game moments earlier, driving a full-count pitch over the centerfield fence for his 13th home run of the season.
Bowling Green (17-17) opened the scoring in the first, thanks to a single, an infield error and an RBI double to left field off the bat of Corey Loomis. But Kalita wriggled out of the jam (runners on second and third with one out), inducing the heavy-hitting Hunt into a 2-0 popup before blowing strike three past Nick Elrod (on a 2-2 pitch).
The Irish had runners on the corners in the second inning but freshman righthander Tom Oestrike rolled up a comebacker for the inning-ending 1-6-3 double play. The Falcons then had runners on the corners with one out in the third but senior catcher Paul O’Toole gunned down Loomis trying to steal second and Hunt went down swinging on a 2-2 pitch.
Notre Dame forged a 1-1 tie in the fourth, sparked by a pair of two-strike singles from sophomore first baseman Joe Thaman (to right-center, 1-2) and senior centerfielder Steve Stanley (through the left side, 2-2). Senior DH Matt Bok’s bunt advanced the runners, with Thaman scoring on junior leftfielder Brian Stavisky’s rightside groundout before senior third baseman Andrew Bushey walked on four pitches. O’Toole then gave the ball a ride but centerfielder David Barkholz hauled it in at the track to end the potentially-big inning.
The Irish edged to a 2-1 lead in the fourth, with sophomore second baseman Steve Sollmann sending a shot up the middle on a 2-2 pitch before moving up on Billmaier’s bunt and a wild pitch – followed by a run-scoring groundout to the shortstop by his counterpart Javier Sanchez.
BOWLING GREEN (17-17) 1-0-0 0-0-1 – 2 4 0
NOTRE DAME (29-12) 0-0-1 1-0-1 – 3 5 1
Tom Oestrike, Kyle Knoblauch (4), Matt Hundley (5) and Tim Newell.
Ryan Kalita and Paul O’Toole.
Home Runs: Kelly Hunt, BG (solo in 6th, 13th of season), Kris Billmaier, ND (solo in 6th, 2nd of season).
Doubles: David Barkholz (BG), Corey Loomis (BG).