March 10, 2001
Matt Strickroth launched a pair of towering first-pitch home runs while Aaron Heilman tossed eight strong innings for his 32nd career victory in a 5-2 win over the University of the Pacific before Matt Buchmeier picked up his first decision of the season in a 4-3 win over Eastern Michigan, as the 11th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team pushed its record to 8-2 with a pair of victories Saturday at Hebert Field.
Strickroth, a native of Mission Viejo, Calif., rose to the occasion while playing for the first time with the Irish in his home state. The junior rightfielder jumped all over the first pitch of the third inning from righthanded starter D.J. Haulton, powering a fastball high over the leftfield fence for his first hit of the season and the fifth home run of his Irish career.
Two innings later, freshman first baseman Joe Thaman singled before Haulton offered another first-pitch fastball to Strickroth, with the 6-5, 225-pound righthander quickly launching the ball on a blast that was estimated at 425 feet-with the ball clearing a parking lot behind the leftfield wall and landing near the pitchers mound of an adjacent softball field.
Heilman (4-0) scattered two runs, six hits, three walks and three hit batters over his eight-inning outing while pushing his career record to 32-7 (equaling the third-most wins in Irish history). The All-American retired 10 straight batters from the second through fifth innings while the bulk of his 24 outs came via strikeouts (7) and groundouts (12).
Houlton and lefthanded reliever Matthew Pena limited the Irish offense to six hits, with Notre Dame leading hitter Brian Stavisky going 0-for-3 in his first game back in the lineup since Feb. 24 (he missed four games due to a hamstring injury and served as the DH versus UOP).
Pacific dropped to 13-9 after facing Notre Dame for the first time, with UOP becoming the 271st all-time opponent in Notre Dame baseball history (the Irish now are 2-4 all-time versus teams that currently are members of the Big West Conference).
In Saturday’s second game, Buchmeier tossed six strong innings while the Notre Dame offense received some timely execution and took advantage of five Eastern Michigan errors.
Eastern Michigan (1-12) claimed an early 1-0 lead and forged a 2-2 tie in the sixth before the Irish took the lead for good with single runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
Buchmeier scattered two runs, five hits and one walk over the first six innings while striking our four EMU batters. Sophomore righthander Brandon Viloria then picked up the first save of his Irish career, facing just 11 batters over the final three innings while allowing a pair of hits that produced a run in the ninth.
Notre Dame plated the go-ahead run in the seventh inning versus righthander Joe Linde, who came on in relief of lefty Phil Komer. Linde walked the bases loaded before Strickroth lifted a sacrifice fly to center field. Thaman added his first home run of the season in the eighth inning to cap the scoring.
Strickroth enjoyed a solid all-around day, also drawing a pair of walks while making three tough sliding catches in right field.
Saturday’s game surprisingly is just the second ever played between the ND and EMU baseball squads (the Irish won the 1992 meeting, at ND’s Jake Kline Field).
#11 Notre Dame (7-2) 0-0-2 0-2-1 0-0-0 – 5 6 0
Pacific (13-9) 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 2 6 1
Aaron Heilman (W, 4-0), Matt Laird (9, SV-2) and Paul O’Toole.
D.J. Houlton (L, 4-2), Matthew Pena (7) and Travis Anderson.
Home Runs: Matt Strickroth (ND)-2 (solo in 3rd, 1st of season, 2-run in 5th).
Doubles: Andrew Bushey (ND).
#11 Notre Dame (8-2) 0-0-0 1-1-0 1-1-0 – 4 8 0
Eastern Michigan (1-12) 1-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-1 – 3 7 5
Matt Buchmeier (W, 1-0), Brandon Viloria (7, S-1) and Andrew Bushey.
Phil Kommer, Joe Linde (6, L, 0-4) and Andy Busch, Chad Jenkins (7).
Home Runs: Joe Thaman (ND), solo in 8th, 1st of season.
Triple: Greg Anglin (EMU).
Doubles: Steve Stanley (ND), Todd Moore (EMU).