May 15, 1999
JAMAICA, N.Y. – A bizarre final half-inning led to a 5-4 St. John’s win in the opener but Notre Dame rode a pair of Jeff Felker home runs and Matt Strickroth’s bases-loaded single in the nightcap for a 5-2 win, in BIG EAST Conference doubleheader action Saturday at McCallen Field.
Notre Dame (41-13, 20-4 BIG EAST) clinched the BIG EAST title prior to winning the second game, thanks to a 7-5 loss earlier in the day by second-place Rutgers at Pittsburgh. St. Johns (28-20-2, 12-11-1) clinched a spot in the six -team BIG EAST Championship but the Red Storm still could finish anywhere from fourth to sixth, pending Sunday’s games. Seton Hall (13-11) stands in fourth, followed by SJU and West Virginia (12-12), with each of those teams securing the final tournament spots.
Notre Dame nearly clinched the regular-season title without Pittsburgh’s help, rallying for three runs in the sixth inning of the seven-inning opener for a 4-3 lead. But SJU scored a pair of unearned runs in a wild bottom of the seventh.
Irish junior righthander John Corbin (7-3) suffered the strange opening loss, tossing just three pitches before injuring his ankle in freak fashion on the mound. Keith Stamler (5-5) posted the win in relief of fellow sophomore righthander Kevin McGerry, who allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits over six innings, with six strikeouts. Stamler closed the game, allowing one hit while rolling up three groundouts. Sophomore lefty Mike Naumann (4-0) won the nightcap in relief of senior Alex Shilliday, who tossed five shutout innings while allowing four hits and three walks, with four Ks. Sophomore Aaron Heilman picked up his second save of the season and the 11th of his career (one shy of equaling the Irish record). Heilman notched the final five outs, with two strikeouts, two hits and one walk allowed.
SJU junior Pat Collins (4-5) took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks over six and two-thirds innings, with four Ks.
GAME ONE: The Irish forged a 4-4 tie with a run in the seventh, after Strickroth’s leadoff double to left and a sac. bunt from pinch-hitter Ed Golom (ending McGerrys day) … Steve Stanley then plated Cooke with a 2-1 single to right field … the Irish brought on Naumann in the bottom of the seventh and SJU countered with righthander-hitting Ho Wan Lee, who flew out to right field, but Anthony Sutter followed with a single up the middle … Corbin then took the hill and Sutter broke for second base on the third pitch, with Corbin suffering a freak ankle injury as he ducked under the throw … with the title two outs away, the Irish called on Heilman, who led the nation with a 1.61 ERA as the Irish closer in 98 and who tossed five shutout innings on Wednesday to beat No. 2-ranked Miami. … Heilman inherited a 2-1 count but lost pinch-hitter Mike Lehman on a full-count walk … leadoff hitter Pete Graham then bounced a 2-1 pitch towards the left side of the second-base bag … shortstop Brant Ust was in position to start the game-ending double play but the ball glanced off his glove, changing direction as it trickled away from charging second baseman Alec Porzel … Sutter was running on the play and made a break for home plate … Porzel scrambled to his left after the ball but his throw was well up the first-base line, with Fierro and Graham taking an extra base on the sequences second error. … Irish head coach Paul Mainieri then inserted rightfielder Ben Cooke in front of the second base as a fifth infielder, with the winning run on third base and one out … but Matt Galante lifted a 1-1 pitch down the rightfield line for the winning sacrifice fly … SJU touched junior Scott Cavey for three early runs, thanks to consecutive first-inning doubles by Galante and Mike Dzurilla and Grahams two-run single in the second … the Irish tied the game in the sixth, after Porzels ninth home run of the season (a shot to left field that plated Steve Stanley) and a pair of infield errors.
GAME TWO: Felker opened the scoring with his eighth home run of the season, a two-out, first-pitch shot to right field … SJU surged ahead with two runs in the sixth, after Charles Bilezikjian walked and Naumann threw away an easy toss to first on Neils grounder … the ball rolled into right field as the lead runner scored, with Neil moving to third when catcher Paul OToole bobbled the throw from Porzel (resulting in a double error) … Eric Dorseys pinch-hit single through the left side plated the second run … Matt Nussbaum reached in the seventh on an error by the first baseman and the Irish then loaded the bases on Felkers full-count walk and Andrew Busheys 2-2 single through the opposite left side … Strickroth then delivered on a 2-2 count, drilling a two-run single into right-center field … OToole capped the inning with a two-out RBI single to right-center … Felker homered again in the eighth, lifting a two-out, full-count pitch over the rightfield fence.
NOTRE DAME 0-0-0 0-0-3 1 - 4 7 2ST. JOHNS 1-2-0 0-0-0 2 - 5 9 2 Cavey, McKeown (3), Naumann (7), Corbin (7), Heilman (7) and OToole. McGerry, Stamler (7) and Fierro.
NOTRE DAME 0-0-1 0-0-0 3-1-0 - 5 7 2ST. JOHNS 0-0-0 0-0-2 0-0-0 - 2 9 2
Shilliday, Naumann, Heilman and OToole. Collins, Zaug (7), Santucci and Niksa, Fierro (7).