May 12, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind.- Mike Rodriguez broke up Notre Dame’s bid for a no-hitter with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning but the No. 2-ranked Hurricanes failed to avert their first scoreless game since 1995, as the No. 24 Irish held on for a 1-0 victory in exciting non-conference baseball action Wednesday night at Eck Stadium.
Three Irish pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts in the near no-hitter as Notre Dame (40-12) posted its 11th straight season with 40-plus victories. The win-Notre Dame’s 10th one-run victory of the season-held extra significance for the Irish, who lost a three-games series at Miami in 1998 by the combined score of 62-8 before seeing the Hurricanes score three times in the eighth inning for a 5-3 comeback win over the Irish on Tuesday night.
Sophomore righthander and All-American Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) closed the final five innings to improve to 10-2 for the season and 17-5 in his career. Heilman’s 72-pitch outing included seven strikeouts, four groundouts and three walks, plus the 1-2 single by Rodriguez in the ninth.
Heilman pushed his season strikeout total to 105, surpassing Frank Carpin’s 41-year-old Notre Dame record of 102 (set in 1958).
Miami (36-12) saw its scoring streak snapped at 248 games (sixth-longest in NCAA history), with the previous shutout versus the Hurricanes coming in a 4-0 loss to Texas A&M on May 29, 1995. Miami averted its first no-hit effort in 2,078 games, stretching back to a 4-1, seven-inning loss to Florida Southern on April 18, 1964 (the last nine-inning, no-hitter versus Miami came in an 18-0 loss to Florida State on April 18, 1958).
The visitors were one hit away from another dramatic late-inning rally, but Heilman struck out fellow Team USA invitee Manny Crespo to end the game.
Brian Seever struck out looking on three pitches to open the ninth before Bobby Hill sent a 1-2 pitch down the leftfield line, with junior leftfielder Matt Nussbaum making a sliding catch to his right for the second out.
Rodriguez fell behind on a 1-2 count but then drilled a fastball into shallow left field, ending the no-hitter. Rodriguez swiped second base while Heilman went to his tough slider for a 2-2 count on the righthanded-hitting Crespo, who then swung and missed at a low-and-outside slider to end the night’s excitement.
Irish righthander Alex Shilliday and lefty Chris McKeown-two of just three seniors on the Notre Dame squad-set the table for Heilman by facing just 13 batters over the first four innings. Shilliday totaled four strikeouts and two walks over the first two innings, with catcher Paul O’Toole nailing Hill as he tried to steal second base in the first inning.
McKeown also had four strikeouts over the next two innings, when he faced the minimum six batters. McKeown gave up a leadoff walk and stolen base to Marcus Nettles but quickly erased the eager speedster with a clever pickoff throw.
The Irish scored the game’s only run on an RBI single from sophomore second baseman Alec Porzel in the first inning. Freshman centerfielder Steve Stanley led off with a single to left field and was running on a groundout to second base by his classmate O’Toole. Porzel then delivered on a 2-2 count, plating the speedy Stanley with a single to center field.
Miami sophomore righthander Tom Farmer took the loss in his first appearance of the season, allowing six hits and one walk over six innings, with four Ks. Freshmen Troy Roberson and Vince Vasquez then held the Irish hitless over the final three innings.
Notre Dame walked the leadoff batter in five of the first six innings but the Hurricanes failed to move a runner to third base until the fifth, when Kevin Brown walked, stole second and took third on Lale Esquival’s rightside groundout. But Nettles ended the inning with a chopper to shortstop Brant Ust.
The Irish had runners on the corners in the bottom of the fifth, but Ust ended the inning with a groundball to the shortstop. Stanley then drew a two-out walk in the seventh and moved up on a balk but Roberson blew strike three past O’Toole.
Miami managed just seven total baserunners but hit into one double play while seeing three runners thrown out (two on stolen base attempts, one on McKeown’s pickoff throw).
UM’s Greg Lovelady walked to open the second but was stranded after Shilliday sandwiched two strikeouts around a groundball to the third baseman.
Seever drew a full-count walk to open the sixth but Hill struck out looking on three pitches before O’Toole nailed Seever trying to steal second.
Esquival drew a one-out walk in the eighth and pinch-runner Charleton Jimerson then entered the game, with Nettles at the plate. But Nettles sent an 0-1 pitch towards Ust, who flicked the ball to Porzel as the Irish pulled off a double play versus two of UM’s fastest baserunners.
Notre Dame was bidding for the program’s first no-hitter since Brian Piotrowicz tossed a 2-0, seven-inning game versus Ball State on May 11, 1988.
Shilliday’s four Ks give him 258 in his career, five behind Chris Michalak (1990-93) for third all-time at Notre Dame.
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: “I’m just so proud of our kids, particularly because of the way that they came back from a heartbreaking loss the night before to find in themselves a way to win a game like they did tonight. We’ve played so many close games all season that our players have the confidence and experience to perform under tremendous pressure. Our pitching was superb and the plan that (pitching coach) Brian O’Connor mapped out worked to perfection.”
MIAMI 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 1 1 NOTRE DAME 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1 6 1
Farmer, Roberson (5), Vazquez (9) and Lovelady. Shilliday, McKeown (3),Heilman (5) and O'Toole.