May 6, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Aaron Heilman flirted with a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the seven-inning opener while Notre Dame rallied from an 8-2 deficit to win the nightcap on Alec Porzel’s 10th-inning home run, as the Irish swept visiting Pittsburgh in BIG EAST action Saturday at Eck Stadium (7-0, 11-8).
The pair of wins assures that Notre Dame (40-12, 16-5 BIG EAST) will have a shot at overtaking league-leading Rutgers (17-3), when the Scarlet Knights come to town for a three-game series on May 13-14. Regardless of today’s (Sunday’s) outcome versus Pittsburgh in the series finale, Notre Dame’s mission next week will be simple: sweep the three games from Rutgers and claim the BIG EAST regular-season title.
Pittsburgh (28-20, 8-12) slipped into seventh place in the BIG EAST standings, with the top six teams advancing to the May 17-20 BIG EAST Tournament.
Heilman (10-1) set down the first 10 batters he faced before yielding a walk to Joe Lydic in the fourth and hitting Brant Colamarino with a full-count pitch. Stuart Rykaceski broke up the no-hit bid with one out in the sixth-on a sharp first-pitch double to right-center field-and Lydic also was credited with an infield single later in the inning.
Heilman’s final line included the two hits, one walk and hit batter while his eight strikeouts pushed his season total to 102 and his career total to 298 (he set the Irish season record in ’99, with 118, while ’93 grad David Sinnes owns the career mark of 315). He needed just 76 pitches en route to his eighth complete game of the season and has won his last 10 decisions-becoming just the second Irish pitcher to accomplish that feat and the first since Frank Scanlan went 10-0 in 1908.
Heilman lowered his season ERA to 2.21 and currently is one of just two players in Division I baseball who own a season ERA of 2.3 or lower, 10-plus wins and 100-plus strikeouts (his former USA teammate Len Dinardo of Stetson is 13-1, with a 2.22 ERA and 115 Ks).
The Irish scored twice in the fourth inning before breaking open the first game with a five-run fifth. A pair of Panthers errors led to the final four runs being unearned, with the big blow coming on a three-run shot from slumping sophomore Paul O’Toole-his fifth of the season (four of his eight home runs in ’99 also came in May).
Righthander Matt Irvin (6-4) was the hard-luck loser in the opener, as just three of the seven runs charged to him were earned.
The wild finish to the nightcap was reminiscent of last week’s St. John’s series, which saw the Irish win the finale on Jeff Felker’s walkoff home run in the ninth. Unlike the two exciting finishes in those games, Notre Dame was the team that had to rally this time around-after Pitt turned in its own five-run fifth and added a run in the sixth for an 8-2 bulge, with the big hit coming on Brad Rea’s two-run shot versus starter Scott Cavey.
The Irish responded with four hits and three runs versus starter Jory Coughenour in the bottom of the sixth, with the last scoring on Ken Meyer’s controversial double down the rightfield line. Rightfielder Joe Burger converged on the blooper and tightroped the line before appearing to make the catch as he made a stumbling dive to his left. But the first base umpire ruled that no catch was made on the play, with Pitt head coach Joe Jordano ultimately being ejected due to his repeated arguing about the play.
Notre Dame chipped away with a run (on Brian Stavisky’s towering home run to dead-center, his team-leading 13th homer of the season) and tied the game with two in the eighth-the big play coming on Steve Stanley’s first-pitch, two-run single through the left side.
Matt Bok sparked the winning rally with a first-pitch single up the middle, ending the brief stint of reliever Scott Schultz. Lou Kammermeier then brought his unorthodox sidearm delivery to the mound but his one-out wild pitch, a muffed catch by the first baseman Colamarino and Stanley’s groundout put runners on second and third for Porzel-who jumped all over the first pitch and parked it over the leftfield fence for his sixth home run of the season.
GAME NOTES: Porzel has made a name for himself when it comes to game-ending home runs, as he also beat Pittsburgh with a first-pitch, walkoff home run to cap the team’s 1999 series (3-2), and ended a 15-inning game with West Virginia during his freshman season (’98) … the Irish played the second game without injured senior first baseman Felker, who was injured last in the first game with a foot bruise and his status is still TBA … his replacement responded in fine fashion, as the little-used Bok went 2-for-3 in the nightcap, with an RBI and two runs scored … Stanley pushed his career-best hitting streak to 17 games and is batting 25-for-53 (.472) during that span … Meyer’s last five BIG EAST games have yielded 12 hits and 25 total bases in 20 at-bats … lost in all the excitement was the fact that Notre Dame reached 40 wins for the 12th straight season and reached the milestone in the second-fewest games ever by an Irish team (the 1990 team went 40-10) … the Irish played error-free ball in the doubleheader while six Panther errors led to seven unearned runs during the two games … John Corbin tossed the final three innings to win the nightcap, with Matt Buchmeier providing 2.1 innings of solid middle relief … the Irish lead the Pitt series 15-1, including seven straight wins.
Pittsburgh 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 - 0 2 3Notre Dame 0-0-0 2-5-0 0 - 7 11 0Aaron Heilman and Matt Nussbaum.
Pittsburgh 0-0-1 1-5-1 0 0 0 - 8 11 3Notre Dame 1-0-0 1-0-3 1-2-0 3 - 11 12 0Jory Coughenour, Steve Vickroy (7), Scott Schultz (8), Lou Kammermeier andCharis Britt.Scott Cavey, Matt Buchmeier (5), John Corbin (8) and Paul O'Toole, MattNussbaum (8).