April 24, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Senior Jeff Wagner’s 49th career home run helped the Notre Dame win the opener, 8-7, but Seton Hall rode the strong pitching of junior righthander Cameron Esslinger to win the nightcap, 7-1, as the Irish and Pirates split a BIG EAST Conference baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (31-10, 15-3 BIG EAST) maintained its cushion over second-place Rutgers (14-5) atop the BIG EAST standings, as the Knights split their doubleheader with fourth-place Providence.
Seton Hall (19-15-1, 9-9) picked up a crucial victory in its quest for one of the six BIG EAST tournament spots, with eight games left to play. The Pirates maintained fifth place but four teams – Villanova, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and West Virginia – remain on the heels of SHU.
Wagner’s three-run shot in the fifth inning of the opener gave the Irish an 8-4 lead, runs that proved crucial when SHU rallied with a run in the sixth and two in the seventh. Wagner added an RBI groundout in the nightcap, giving him 83 career RBI in BIG EAST regular-season games and a share of the BIG EAST record (joining former SHU greats Mo Vaughn, 1987-89, and Alex Andreopoulos, 1992-95). Wagner reached the record-tying total in his 69th career BIG EAST regular-season game while Vaughn played 53 BIG EAST games and Andreopoulos appeared in 82. Wagner also has 24 home runs in BIG EAST regular-season play, second in BIG EAST history behind Vaughn’s 26.
Sophomore righthander Aaron Heilman (8-2) picked up the win in the opener, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits and one walk over six and two-thirds innings. Heilman’s six strikeouts give him 81 for the season, ranking ninth in the Irish record book (just 27 shy of the record, with at least five full starts remaining).
Junior righthander John Corbin struggled to get the final out of the opener while posting his ninth save of the season, one shy of Mike Coffey’s record total from the 1989 Irish season. Corbin gave up a hit and a walk before striking out pinch hitter Damon Ponce deLeon to end the game.
Senior lefty John Probst (3-3) took the loss, allowing eight runs on 10 hits and four walks, with three Ks. Esslinger (4-2) turned in a strong effort that included eight strikeouts and 14 groundouts. Esslinger allowed the lone Irish run in the second inning, while scattering nine hits over his no-walk, 111-pitch outing.
Irish senior righthander Alex Shilliday (2-3) took the loss, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits and two walks over seven and one-third innings, with six strikeouts and 13 groundouts.
GAME ONE: SHU scored in the first, after John Bravette’s one-out double to left center and Brian Leighton’s RBI single through the left side — the Irish answered, behind Steve Stanley’s leadoff walk, Ed Golom’ sac. bunt (and Stanley’s hustling move to third), Alec Porzel’s walk and Brant Ust’s RBI fielder’s choice — both teams scored in the third, with SHU’s Brian McGee getting hit by a one-out pitch, stealing second and taking third on a throwing error by catcher Paul O’Toole before scoring when leftfielder Matt Nussbaum failed to make a running catch to his left on a fly ball from Ray Navarette — the Irish scored on Stanley’s leadoff bunt single, another sac. from Golom, Stanley’s 17th stolen base of the season and Porzel’s RBI double to left — the Irish scored three times in the fourth, thanks to Wagner’s leadoff, full-count walk, Jeff Felker’s single up the middle, O’Toole’s flyout, Ben Cooke’s two-run double to left-center and Stanley’s RBI single up the middle — SHU came back with two runs in the sixth, with Bravette executing a two-out bunt to the third-base side and Navarette singling to center, before RBI singles from Leighton (to left) and Alfie Critelli (down the rightfield line) — Ust hit a one-out single in the fifth and Nussbaum slapped a single through the left side before Wagner parked a full-count pitch over the leftfield fence — SHU plated a run in the sixth, after a single to center by Ross Petruska and an RBI double to center by fellow pinch hitter Josh Vath –SHU’s final rally included Leighton’s one-out walk, Critelli’s single through the right side, Petrsuka’s one-out RBI single to left (on a 2-2 count, ending Heilman’s day), another RBI single to center from Vath (on a full count) and Tony Calabrese’s walk .. Ponce deLeon then went down swinging on a 1-2 pitch.
GAME TWO: SHU opened the scoring in the second, after Kevin Leighton’s leadoff walk and Vath’s RBI double to left — Ust then smacked a leadoff triple to the gap in right-center before tying the game on Wagner’s groundout — SHU plated a run in the fifth, thanks to McGee’s two-out single down the leftfield line and Bravette’s double to right — Bravette smacked an eighth-inning leadoff pitch off Shilliday, who still had a chance to get the out but misplayed the ball on the first-base side — Brian Leighton then drilled a one-out, 1-1 pitch over the rightfield fence for a 4-1 lead — his brother Kevin followed with a single to left (ending Shilliday’s day) and freshman Drew Duff walked Jeff Miller before giving up a two-out, two-run double to center by Critelli — SHU capped the scoring in the ninth, when Navarette drew a two-out walk, moved up on passed ball (with sophomore lefty Mike Naumann on the mound) and scored on Brian Leighton’s single to shallow center field and Wagner’s error after misplaying the cutoff.
NOTES: Felker extended his hitting streak to 16 games (longest by an Irish player since Mike Amrhein’s 21-game streak in 1997) while Stanley and classmate Andrew Bushey extended their hitting streaks to 10 games — in other BIG EAST action Saturday: Providence (11-8) maintained fourth place with its 9-6, 14-15 split at Rutgers, Villanova (9-10) earned a split with visiting UConn (2-1, 8-9 in 12 innings), Pittsburgh split at home with 10th-place Boston College (8-5, 6-9 in 10 inn.) and West Virginia took two at home from last-place Georgetown (7-2, 8-7) — third-place St. John’s (10-6) was idle from conference play.
SETON HALL 1-0-1 0-2-1 2 7 12 0NOTRE DAME 1-0-1 3-3-0 X 8 11 3
Probst, Benik (6) and Tarkington. Heilman, Corbin (7) and O'Toole.
SETON HALL 0-1-0 0-1-0 0-4-1 7 9 1NOTRE DAME 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1 9 2
Esslinger and Tarkington. Shilliday, Duff (8), Naumann (9) and O'Toole.