March 23, 2002
The Notre Dame baseball team was in position to pick up a pair of wins on Saturday at the University of Connecticut before seeing the Huskies score the go-ahead run in the 4-3 opener on a fifth-inning passed ball – followed by the hosts rallying to tie the nightcap with a five-run eighth , en route to a 9-8 win in 11 innings.
Notre Dame (9-8) – which stranded 15 baserunners, including eight in the low-scoring first game – dropped its BIG EAST opener for just the second time since joining the league in 1996 while the Irish were swept for just the forth time in 53 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders. UConn (7-5) also becomes just the second team to take a BIG EAST series from the Irish in ND’s last 20 league series (spanning the enitre 2000 and ’01 seasons).
Freshman righthanders Grant Johnson (2-2) and Chris Niesel started on the mound for the Irish, with Johnson totaling an uncharacteristic five walks (he yielded just two in his previous four outings) while holding UConn to four runs (three earned) and four hits in five innings of work.
Niesel – who took a three-hitter into the eighth inning – ended up allowing eight runs on six hits, two walks and a hit batter in seven and one-third innings, with four strikeouts. Junior righthander J.P. Gagne (1-2) then was tagged with the hard-luck loss, after allowing an unearned run in the 11th (his 2.1 innings included two hits, two Ks and two hit batters).
The defeat obscured two major milestones for senior centerfielder Steve Stanley (Upper Arlington, Ohio), who pushed his streak of consecutive starts to 205 games (spanning every game of his ND career) while collecting his 295th and 296th career hits. Stanley passed one record set by former Irish shortstop Pat Pesavento, who started 204 straight games from 1986-89, while Pesavento and Stanley now share the ND career hits record.
Junior lefthander Jesse Carlson (4-0) – who posted a four-hit win over ND in a 1999 nine-inning game – turned in another complete game in Saturday’s seven-inning opener, holding the Irish to the three runs (three earned) despite allowing seven hits and six walks. Erik Drown (1-1) then won the nightcap in relief of fellow righthander Pat Sperone, with Drown holding the Irish two a pair of hits and one walk in four shutout innings.
UConn struck early with three first-inning runs in the opener but the Irish chipped away to tie the game with two runs in the third – behind hits from Steve Stanley, Matt Macri and Brian Stavisky, plus Matt Bok’s walk – and one in the fourth (when Bok doubled home Joe Thaman).
The Huskies retook the lead in the fifth, as Cy Hess led off with a walk before moving around the bases on a sacrifice bunt, a groundout and a passed ball.
UConn – which has won four of its last seven vs. ND, including three straight – also staked a 3-0 led in the nightcap, heading into the fifth inning. That’s when the Irish cashed in five hits and an error to surge ahead 5-3, with Paul O’Toole’s three-run blast pushing the lead to 8-3 in the seventh (following Bok’s one-out double and an intentional walk that was issued to Stavisky).
But the Huskies answered with their own five-run inning in the bottom of the eighth, with Soteropoulos drawing a bases-loaded walk while Dan Trubia tied the game with a grand slam into the jetstream that was sucking the ball out to center field (all four of the game’s long balls went to center).
A two-base fielding error gave UConn its chance in the bottom of the 11th, with darkness setting in, and Brett Burnham delivered by sending the game-ending single to left-center.
NOTES: Notre Dame junior outfielder Brian Stavisky hit 5-for-9 in the doubleheader , raising his season average to .467 while “dropping” his slugging pct. to .900 … UConn hit just .188 in the doubleheader but scored eight of its 13 runs on the three home-run swings … Gagne lowered his season ERA to 2.49, second-best among ND regulars behind freshman RHP John Axford’s 2.45 (he’s the likely Irish starter for Sunday’s finale).
Notre Dame 0-0-2 1-0-0 0 – 3 7 0
Connecticut 3-0-0 0-1-0 X – 4 4 1
Grant Johnson (L, 2-2), Matt Buchmeier (6) and Matt Bok. Jesse Carlson (W, 4-0) and Mike Leonard.
Home Run: Peter Soteropoulos, CU (1 on in 1st).
Double: Bok (ND), Cy Hess (UC).
Notre Dame (9-8) 0-0-0 0-5-0 3-0-0 0-0 – 8 12 4
Connecticut (7-5) 0-1-0 2-0-0 0-5-0 0-1 – 9 8 2
Chris Niesel, J.P. Gagne (8) and Matt Bok. Pat Sperone, Erik Drown (8) and Mike Leonard.
Home Runs: Leonard, UC (1 on in 2nd, 1st of season), Paul O’Toole, ND (2 on in 7th, 3rd of season), Dan Trubia, UC (grand slam in 8th).
Doubles: Bok (ND), Andrew Bushey (ND), Jon Gorrie (UC) and Mike Mocerino (UC).