March 17, 2000
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Notre Dame baseball donned special green hats to commemorate Saint Patrick’s Day and responded with its biggest offensive effort in seven games, as the Irish exploded for eight runs over the final three innings to post a 10-3 victory over the Akron Zips in continuing Kennel Club Classic action Friday at Harmon Stadium.
Irish freshman rightfielder Brian Stavisky put on a display of his raw power and all-around talent, launching two home runs while driving in four runs and picking up four hits in five at-bats.
Notre Dame (11-3) has won eight of its last nine games and is off to the best start by an Irish baseball team since the 1963 squad also opened 11-3.
Sophomore righthander Matt Buchmeier (2-0) tossed four shutout innings in relief, allowing four hits while striking out six. Freshman righthander Matt Laird worked the first four and one-third innings and was charged with three runs (one earned) on seven hits, with two strikeouts.
Akron senior righthander John Wilkinson (2-1) yielded four runs on seven hits and five walks, with three Ks.
The struggling Irish offense awakened behind a reworked batting order, with Stavisky moving from the cleanup to No. 2 spot while sophomore DH Paul O’Toole shifted from leadoff to cleanup. Sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley moved up from the second spot to leadoff, where he batted for most of 1999. Senior first baseman Jeff Felker also moved up in the lineup, batting third.
Notre Dame plated the game’s first run in the third inning. Junior shortstop Ben Cooke led off the frame with a full-count walk and Stanley followed with a bloop single to left on a hit-and-run play. Stavisky then laced a run-scoring single through the left side of the infield.
Akron (4-5) tied the game in the fourth, after Jim Gemler’s leadoff single, a stellar defensive play by Felker on a fielder’s choice and two more singles from Brian Meholick and Jason Winkler to load the bases with one out. Laird then gave up a sacrifice fly to Kevin Lowery before getting Mike Bell to fly out ending the inning.
The Zips surged ahead with a pair of unearned runs in the fifth. Freshman second baseman Kris Billmaier’s fielding error allowed Brian Roberts to reach first with one out. A wild pitch moved him to second and Sean Manfredonia’s single put runners on the corners, ending the day for Laird. Junior lefthander Mike Naumann then gave up a sacrifice fly to Gemler and an RBI single from Meholick, for a 3-1 Akron lead.
The Irish manufactured a run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit. Felker and O’Toole drew back-to-back walks before a groundball from sophomore third baseman Andrew Bushey put runners on the corners. Senior catcher Matt Nussbaum then scored Felker with a fielder’s choice groundout to third.
Notre Dame reclaimed the lead in the seventh. Cooke led off the inning with a bloop single to left and moved up on Stanley’s sacrifice bunt before scoring when Stavisky drove a 1-1 pitch deep over the wall in right for his team-leading third home run of the season.
The Irish exploded for four runs in the eighth. Nussbaum opened the inning by laying down a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a single. Billmaier then registered his second hit of the season with a single to right and Cooke sent a two-run double over the head of centerfielder Mike Bell. A stolen base and Stanley’s sacrifice fly to right brought home the third run of the inning before Stavisky launched a solo shot to right.
Notre Dame extended its lead in the ninth, with Bushey sending a one-out grounder up the middle before moving up on sophomore leftfielder Matt Strickroth’s double off the wall and Billmaier’s single to left.
The Irish, 6-1 on their current eight-game road trip, take on Illinois Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. before returning home to play Detroit next Wednesday afternoon.
Notre Dame 0-0-1 0-0-1 2-4-2 — 10 14 3
Akron 0-0-0 1-2-0 0-0-0 — 3 13 2
Laird, Naumann (5), Buchmeier (6) and Nussbaum. Wilkinson, Dyrlund (7) and Winkler