March 25, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The 24th-ranked Notre Dame baseball team relied on a common theme Saturday, as strong pitching, air-tight defense and a balanced offense produced a pair of wins over Villanova, 4-0 and 7-3 in 10 innings, at Richie Ashburn Park in downtown Philadelphia.
Notre Dame (15-3) has won 12 of its last 13 games, after opening defense of its BIG EAST Conference regular-season title with the pair of wins over Villanova (10-9, 2-3 BIG EAST). The current Irish record equals the best season-opening record since the 1959 Irish team started 17-3 (the ’63 team also opened 15-3).
Saturday’s first game marked the 3,000th official game in 108 seasons of varsity baseball at Notre Dame. The team commemorated the milestone with a ceremonial team photo, complete with the word “3,000” spelled out in baseballs in front of the team members.
The Irish pitching staff–already on pace to set the Notre Dame season record for team ERA–lowered that number to an eye-popping 2.28, after allowing just three earned runs in 17 innings during the doubleheader. Five Notre Dame pitchers received plenty of defensive help, as the Irish played error-free ball during the entire doubleheader while making several tough plays to cut short VU rallies.
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Junior All-American Aaron Heilman tossed a one-hitter in the 4-0 opener, allowing a bloop single in the third inning from Brendan Mannix that tipped off the glove of charging sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley. Heilman’s 87-pitch effort in the seven-inning game included five strikeouts, eight groundouts and two walks. He faced just one batter over the minimum (22), thanks to a successful pickoff move and a double-play ball, and the only VU batter to reach second base came in the seventh inning, with the Irish conceding the base after a walk to Dave Pizzini.
Freshman rightfielder Brian Stavisky gave the Irish a first-inning lead with his team-leading fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot to right-center field. Six different players combined for the six Irish hits in the opener, with senior second baseman Jeff Perconte collecting an RBI single in the fourth and senior first baseman Jeff Felker providing a sacrifice fly in the fifth for the 4-0 cushion.
Villanova forced a 3-3 tie with a pair of runs in the fifth inning of the nightcap before the Irish offense awakened with four runs in the top of the 10th. Freshman righthander J.P. Gagne (3-0) picked up the win, facing seven batters in the eighth and ninth innings while allowing three hits. Senior righthander Scott Cavey tossed seven strong innings, allowing the three runs on four hits and five walks while collecting five Ks.
Villanova made five costly errors in the nightcap, resulting in the first three Irish runs being unearned.
Sophomore lefthander Aaron Krawiec limited the Irish to three runs, five hits and one walk over the first eight innings (with nine Ks) but the visitors roughed up righthanded closer Brian Manning in the 10th. Stavisky drew a leadoff walk before the Irish rapped out five straight singles, from junior shortstop Alec Porzel, Felker, sophomore DH Paul O’Toole, senior catcher Matt Nussbaum and sophomore third baseman Andrew Bushey (the last coming versus Will Henry).
The Irish offensive balance in the second game included hits from each of the first seven batters and two hits from four different players.
GAME ONE RECAP
- Stanley opened the day with a 1-2 single to left vs. freshman righthander Brian Slocum (who tossed a complete game) before Stavisky launched a 2-2 offering over the fence in right-center field.
- VU’ s Matt Blaney walked on five pitches to lead off the bottom of the first but Heilman popped up Pizzini before forcing 1999 All-BIG EAST performer Matt Longo into a 4-6-3 double play.
- Mannix registered the only hit versus Heilman to lead off the third, blooping a 1-0 pitch into shallow left-center field, with Stanley making a sliding try on the play. After a Dan Glover flyout, Mannix was erased on a groundball from Brian Hearne, who then was picked off first base by Heilman’s quick move.
- The Irish scored an unearned run in the fourth, with Bushey drawing one-out, full-count walk before sophomore DH Matt Bok’s fly ball was dropped on a running backhanded try from rightfielder Nick Piantek. Perconte then delivered with two outs, driving the first pitch he saw through the right side of the infield for a 3-0 lead.
- Stavisky walked on four pitches with one out in the fifth and scooted to third on Porzel’s double to left-center. Felker then lifted a 1-2 pitch to center field to plate the fourth Irish run.
- Pizzini drew a 3-1 walk with one out in the seventh and advanced to second during the next at-bat. But Longo flew out to left field and Rob Cafiero grounded out to Bushey at third base, capping the shutout.
GAME 2 RECAP
- The Wildcats plated a first-inning run in the nightcap, behind Blaney’s leadoff walk, Cavey’s first wild pitch of the season, Pizzinni’s groundout and Longo’s full-count single to center.
- The Irish tied the game moments later, sparked by O’Toole’s leadoff 1-2 single to left and an errant pickoff throw by the first baseman Cafiero as O’Toole was running towards second base. Nussbaum then sent a 2-1 single to right and O’Toole scored when the shortstop Mannix misplayed a short chopper by Bushey.
- The Irish scored twice more in the third, with Stanley drawing a full-count walk and stealing second before Piantek dropped another fly ball, this time off the bat of Porzel with one out. Felker then pushed the Irish to a 3-1 lead with another sacrifice fly, on a ball to right.
- The hosts forged a 3-3 tie in the fifth, with Glover collecting a one-out single to left and Blaney drawing a two-out walk before Pizzini sent a two-run double to center field. VU then nearly took the lead, loading the bases, but Cavey struck out Mike Houser to end the inning.
- The Wildcats also threatened in the eighth, with two runners aboard and just one out, but two huge defensive plays saved the day for the Irish. Chris Watson hit a ball towards Bushey, who made a tough fielding play before reaching out with his right hand to touch the third-base bag for the force play. Mannix then singled into shallow left field but sophomore Matt Strickroth bounced a throw up the third-base line, with Nussbaum blocking the plate and sweeping the tag on Houser for the third out.
- The Irish had a chance in the ninth, but Stanley flew out to left with Bushey on third.
- Stavisky walked on five pitches to lead off the top of the 10th and Porzel followed with a 2-0 single to right-center, with Stavisky motoring to third. Felker then plated the go-ahead run with a 1-2 single to left and Nussbaum hit an RBI single up the middle before O’Toole plated another run with a single to left-center, ending the day for Manning. Bushey then greeted Henry with a single to center, brining home the final Irish run.
NOTES: Stavisky pushed his hitting streak to 10 games, tying Stanley’s earlier run for the longest by an ND player this season … the solo shutout was the second of Heilman’s career (in 20 starts), with the other coming vs. Villanova (also at RAF) in 1999 by the same 4-0 score (5 H, 8 Ks in that game) … Heilman dropped his season ERA to 1.55 (7 ER in 40.2 IP), with his other season totals including 45 Ks, 7 BB and 27 hits allowed … his career ERA dropped to 2.37 (57 ER in 216.2 IP), just shy of the ND record held by Nick Palihnich (2.36, ’59-’61) … Saturday marked Heilman’s ninth career complete game … his last four starts have yielded four wins and just two earned runs in 32 innings of work (an 0.56 ERA in that stretch, plus 36 Ks, 5 BB and 15 H) … his 22-6 career record puts him into a tie for ninth in ND history for career wins while his .786 career winning pct. ranks 7th all-time at ND … Saturday marked the first time in Cavey’s last eight outings that he has not registered a win … with the series finale on Sunday, ND already has improved to a record of 26 series wins, five series losses and five series ties in BIG EAST weekend action during four-plus seasons in the league … the Irish have won nine of their last 11 BIG EAST series (with one tie) and 21 of the last 26 (with three ties) … ND has played 33 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders, sweeping 18 of them (with 13 splits and just two sweeps by the opponent) … the Irish have played 24 BIG EAST doubleheaders since the last time they were swept by the opponent (at Seton Hall, early in the 1997 season) … the only other DH sweep by a BIG EAST team over ND was by West Virginia in 1996 … the ND pitchers have allowed 19 earned runs in the last 12 games (106 IP, 1.61 ERA in those games) … ND owns a 10-2 series record vs. VU, with six straight wins … Heilman has not allowed an earned run in four career appearances vs. VU (17.2 IP), with 18 Ks, 2 BB and 10 H … ND boosted its all-time best season fielding pct. to .969 (21 errors in 18 games), with seven error-free games and five with just one error (just two with 3-plus Es) … ND had scored just three first-inning runs this season before Stavisky’s home run vs. VU … Stavisky (5) is well on pace to challenge the ND record for home runs by a freshman, set by Brant Ust in 1997 (11).
Heilman and O’Toole. Slocum and Glover
Cavey, Naumann (8), Gagne (8), Corbin (10) and Nussbaum.
Krawiec, Manning (9), Henry (10) and Glover.