September 12, 1998
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Notre Dame baseball team used back-to-back first-inning home runs from senior catcher Jeff Wagner (Louisville, Ky.) and junior shortstop Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) and solid contributions from several freshmen to defeat Michigan State, 9-5, in a fall exhibition game Saturday afternoon at Oldsmobile Park, home of the single-A Lansing Lugnets.
The game counts against each team’s maximum of 56 games in the 1999 spring season but the result will not count towards either teams won-loss record or to NCAA Tournament consideration.
The Irish started five freshmen position players while using three newcomers on the mound, with freshman righthander Drew Duff (Sevierville, Tenn. ) picking up the win after facing eight batters during the fifth and sixth innings while allowing one walk and one hit. Five errors from the rusty Irish defense played their part in three unearend runs for MSU.
Eight Notre Dame starters collected at least one hit while 11 player combined for the 15-hit Irish onslaught. Ust (2-for-3) and three freshmen-centerfielder Steve Stanley (2-for-5; Columbus, Ohio), third baseman Andy Bushey (2-for-5; Boardman, Ohio) and designated hitter J.P. Drevline (2-for-2; Arlington Heights, Ill.)-had two hits each. The Irish collected nine singles, three doubles, one triple and two home runs.
The starting lineup included just two sophomores, one junior and one senior. The Irish return just 53 percent of their hits from the 1998 season, following the graduation of shortstop J.J. Brock (79 hits), second baseman Todd Frye (46) and first baseman Dan Leatherman (58), plus the loss of centerfielder Allen Greene (71)-who passed up his senior season by signing with the New York Yankees-and senior catcher Mike Knecht (24), who has elected to not play for the Irish this season.
The Irish newcomers showed they were ready for Division I baseball, as the five freshman starters combined to hit 8-for-21 (.381) with three RBI, five runs scored, a triple and just one strikeout. Another freshman, rightfielder Ed Golom (Lockport, Ill.), came on late in the game to collect a hit in his only at-bat while freshman first baseman Ken Meyer (Ft. Myers, Fla.) was 0-for-2.
The winning rally came in the sixth inning, when the Irish pushed across four runs to claim an 8-4 lead. Freshman first baseman Paul O’Toole (Lakewood, Ohio) reached on a throwing error by second baseman Carlos Fernandez before moving to third on a one-out single from Bushey. Drevline’s sacrifice fly to right field gave the Irish a 5-4 lead and sophomore rightfielder Ben Cooke (Bay Village, Ohio) walked. The Irish capped the big inning on an RBI double from sophomore second baseman Alec Porzel (lisle, Ill.) and Stanley’s two-run single.
Sophomore lefthander Tim Kalita (Oak Park, Ill.) tossed a perfect first inning for the Irish while freshman righthander Matt Buckmeier (Greenwood, Ind.) was roughed up in the second and third innings, allowing four runs on four hits and one walk, with two strikeouts.
Other righthanded relievers used by the Irish included junior Scott Cavey (1 IP, 4 BF, 1 H; Omaha, Neb.), freshman Jason Rodda (2 IP, 10 BF, 1 UER, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 K; Lakeland, Fla.) and sophomore Aaron Heilman (1 IP, 5 BF, 2 H, 2 K; Logansport, Ind.), who led the nation in 1997 with a 1.61 ERA while going 7-3 with nine saves.
Ust-who hit .373 last spring with 18 home runs en route to BIG EAST Conference player of the year honors and a spot on Team USA-came to bat with two outs in the top of the first before depositing the ball well over the fence in opposite right field. Wagner, who hit 14 home runs last spring and is the Irish career leader with 41, followed by smacking a memorable shot off the scoreboard in dead-center field. It was the first competitive at-bat in three-and-a-half months for Wagner, who did not play summer ball while working out in his hometown of Louisville.
Stanley showed off his blazing speed in the third inning, when he chugged all the way around from first base on a double by Ust, tying the game at 3-3. MSU answered with a run in the bottom of the inning before freshman leftfielder Matt Strickroth (Mission Viejo, Calif.) tripled and scored on a wild pitch to again tie the game.
The final Irish run came in the ninth, after singles by junior shortstop Jeff Perconte (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and O’Toole and Larry Zimont’s (Oak Forest, Ill.) pinch-hit double that smacked off the fence in left-center field.
Saturday’s starting lineup for the Irish was as follows:
2B Alec Porzel So. Lisle, Ill. CF Steve Stanley Fr. Columbus, OhioSS Brant Ust Jr. Redmond, Wash. C Jeff Wagner Sr. Louisville, Ky.1B Paul O'Toole Fr. Lakewood, OhioLF Matt Strickroth Fr. Mission Viejo, Calif.3B Andy Bushey Fr. Boardman, OhioDH J.P. Drevline Fr. Arlington Heights, OhioRF Ben Cooke So. Bay Village, Ohio