April 20, 2000
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – Execution, clutch plays and defense made the difference in BIG EAST baseball doubleheader action Thursday at Seton Hall, as visiting Notre Dame swept the Pirates (11-5, 5-1) at Carroll Field.
Notre Dame (30-9, 10-4 BIG EAST) equaled the quickest season to 30 wins in Irish history (the `90, `94 and `99 teams also opened 30-9) while keeping within striking distance of league leader Rutgers (16-1), which pulled off a home sweep of Pittsburgh (7-0, 12-2). The Irish pitchers allowed 12 of 16 leadoff batters to reach base but then allowed just six hits in 45 Pirates at-bats with runners on base (and just four hits in 33 ABs with runners in scoring position).
Junior righthander Aaron Heilman (8-1) and freshman righthander J.P. Gagne (6-1) both worked out of several jams to pick up the wins while senior righthander John Corbin tied the Notre Dame record for saves in a season (10), after entering the opener with the Irish clinging to a 6-4 lead in the sixth.
The opener featured a rarity for the Irish this season, as Notre Dame erupted for two big innings-with a four-run fifth yielding a 5-2 lead while the five-run seventh put the game away.
The Irish offense received key hits from several players, with nine collecting hits in the opener while seven had RBI. Sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley and senior first baseman Jeff Felker each had two hits in the first game while senior second baseman Jeff Perconte drove in three runs.
Six Irish players then collected hits in the nightcap (five had RBI and five scored), with Stanley, Perconte, senior catcher Matt Nussbaum and freshman rightfielder Brian Stavisky each posting two hits.
Seton Hall (22-12, 8-6) slipped behind the Irish into third place in the BIG EAST, after leaving 24 runners on base in the doubleheader. The Pirates managed just one run in the nightcap, despite totaling 17 baserunners (13 were stranded while three more were erased on double plays).
Shortstop Tony Calabrese led SHU in the opener, collecting three hits, two RBI and two runs scored. SHU first baseman Alfie Critelli entered the day with a .361 batting average and 12 home runs but went 0-for-8 in the doubleheader.
Heilman-who has won his last eight decisions-was tagged for four runs (three earned) on eight hits and five walks while posting nine strikeouts-pushing his season total to 83 Ks in 69.2 innings (already the 10th-best season K total in Irish history and just 36 shy of breaking his own ND record, set in `99). Heilman also now has 279 career strikeouts in 245.2 IP, pushing him past Tom Price (276, `91-’94) into second on the Notre Dame career Ks list, behind only David Sinnes (315, `90-’93).
Heilman would tie the Irish career K record on the same strikeout in which he would set the single-season mark and he continues to own the best career ratio of strikeouts per nine innings in Irish history (10.22).
Corbin yielded one run on three hits while recording two Ks, extending his Irish career save record to 19 and tying the single-season record (10) set by Mike Coffey in 1989.
Gagne allowed just one run (dropping his season ERA to 2.93) despite giving up eight hits and four walks during the first six innings, with three strikeouts. Sophomore righthander Matt Buchmeier then allowed just two hits and two walks over the final three innings, picking up his second save of the season (with one K) while lowering his ERA to 1.97.
Sophomore righthander Mike Wren (3-1) suffered his first loss of the season, after a forgettable start to the fifth that saw four straight Irish batters reach base. Wren-who entered the day with an 0.89 ERA-was credited with five runs (just two of them earned) on three hits and three walks, with two Ks.
Junior righthander B.J. Benik (5-3) suffered the loss in the nightcap despite a solid eight-inning outing, with five runs allowed on eight hits and two walks (with five Ks).
NOTES: Felker doubled in each game, becoming just the seventh ND player ever to total 50 career doubles … he also made his 197th career start, tied for seventh in Irish history … in other BIG EAST action, Connecticut (9-8) took a pair of one-run games (2-1 in 10, 3-2) from visiting Villanova (7-10) to move into 4th place … Pittsburgh slipped back to 8-8 with its losses at Rutgers … Boston College (8-9) boosted its hopes for a spot in the six-team BIG EAST Tournament with a home sweep of St. John’s (2-1, 9-1), with the slumping Red Storm falling to 5-9 … West Virginia (5-7) posted a 7-4 win in its opener at Georgetown (1-15) … Heilman pushed his career record to 26-6 and is 19-3 during the last two seasons.
GAME 1 SCORING RECAP
* SHU surprised Heilman and the Irish with two runs out of the box, including a four-pitch walk by leadoff hitter Mike Bascom, followed by a stolen base and Joe Cuervo’s full-count walk … SHU then pulled off a one-out double steal and Brian Leighton walked on three pitches before Calabrese sent a 2-0, two-run double down the leftfield line.
* The Pirates kept coming at Heilman in the next two innings but left five runners on base … 2nd-inning singles from Casey Grimm, Bascom and Ray Navarrete loaded the bases but Critelli flailed at a 2-2 pitch to end the threat … Leighton and Jeff Miller then walked in the 3rd but Grimm made the third out with a groundout back to the mound.
* ND broke through for a run in the 4th, with junior SS Alec Porzel drawing a full-count walk, stealing second and scoring on sophomore LF Paul O’Toole’s single down the leftfield line.
* ND’s decisive 5th inning opened with sophomore DH Matt Bok drawing a full-count walk and scoring on Nussbaum’s first-pitch double to left … Wren then was charged with an error on back-to-back sacrifice bunts, with his errant throw bouncing out of Critelli’s glove and off the helmet of the runner Perconte while Wren fumbled with Stanley’s bunt to the third-base side … junior RHP Shawn Tarkington then took the mound but unleashed a wild pitch before serving up Porzel’s one-out RBI single to left … SHU’s third error of the inning came in the next at-bat by sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey, with the 2B Cuervo failing to catch a popup as he ran into shallow CF (with his back to the plate), with Stanley scoring on the play for a 5-2 lead.
* SHU responded with two runs in the bottom of the 5th, after single from Leighton and Calabrese, a double steal and passed ball and Grimm’s RBI single up the middle.
* ND tacked on a run in the 6th, thanks to Felker’s double to left, a hit batter (Bok) and Perconte’s RBI single to shallow left-center.
* The Irish broke open the game with a five-run 7th … Stanley pulled off a bunt single on the first pitch of the inning from sophomore LHP Isaac Pavlik and stole second before scoring on Stavisky’s triple to center … Porzel followed with a sacrifice fly to right before Bushey singled down the LF line and sophomore Ken Meyer added a pinch-hit single, with freshman LHP Buddy Hausmann then serving up Felker’s RBI single to right … a fielders choice from Bok and Perconte’s groundout to the pitcher plated the final two runs.
* SHU managed one run vs. Corbin in the 7th, after a leadoff single from Calabrese and Miller’s one-out double to center.
GAME 2 SCORING RECAP
* Stavisky delivered his fifth triple of the season in the 1st, driving an 0-2 pitch to right field … Porzel then walked and stole second before Bushey plated the first ND run with a 2-2 flyout to right.
* ND rallied with two outs for a run in the 2nd, sparked by Nussbaum’s short groundball to the left side and Perconte’s 1-2 single down the leftfield line … Stanley then came through with an 0-2 double to left-center, plating Nussbaum for a 2-0 lead.
* SHU scored its lone run moments later, with Leighton hitting a leadoff double to left-center before scoring on Calabrase’s groundout and Miller’s flyout to right.
* ND stretched to a 4-1 lead in the 6th, again with a two-out rally … O’Toole was hit by a 1-1 pitch before motoring home on Felker’s double down the rightfield line … Bok then walked on four pitches and Nussbaum sent an RBI single through the left side.
* SHU had a chance in the 6th, when Calabrese drew a leadoff walk, but Miller grounded into a 6-4-3 double play … Adam Arslanian then singled to left field and Grimm walked but Gagne forced Bascom to pop up to the 1B Felker, ending the threat … the Pirates has another chance in the 7th, after Navarrete’s one-out double down the leftfield line, but Critelli hit a lineout to left and Leighton grounded out to Buchmeier for the third out … the Pirates had more chances in the 8th, with Calabrese hitting a leadoff single up the middle, Grimm drawing a two-out walk and Miller reaching on catcher’s interference, but Cuervo popped up to Felker for the third out.
* ND’s final run came in the 9th, with Perconte’s leadoff single ending Benik’s day … Stanley greeted freshman RHP Scott Zadina with a deep bunt single to the right side and Stavisky singled through the right side before Porzel lifted a sac. fly to left.
Notre Dame 0-0-0 1-4-1 5 – 11 12 0
Seton Hall 2-0-0 0-2-0 1 – 5 11 4
Heilman, Corbin (6) and Nussbaum. Wren, Tarkington (5), Pavlik (6), Haussman (7) and Arslanian.
Notre Dame 1-1-0 0-0-2 0-0-1 – 5 10 1
Seton Hall 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 1 10 1
Gagne, Buchmeier (7) and Nussbaum. Benik, Zadina (9) and Arslanian.