March 12, 2000
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – “A different day, some different heroes” continued to be the motto of the Notre Dame baseball team Sunday, as the Irish posted a 5-1 victory over Illinois in continuing action at the Kennel Club Classic, with play shifting to Harmon Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida.
For the third straight game, seven different players combined on 10 hits for Notre Dame (8-2) which posted its fifth straight victory while equaling the best 10-game start by an Irish baseball team since 1960 (the 1992 team also opened 8-2). Senior first baseman Jeff Felker connected on his first home run of the season while junior shortstop Alec Porzel plated the other three Irish runs, with sophomore catcher Paul O’Toole scoring twice from his leadoff spot.
The Irish dominance continued on the mound, as freshman righthanders Matt Laird and Brandon Viloria held Illinois to four hits over the first eight innings, before giving way to junior lefthander Mike Naumann and senior righthanded closer John Corbin.
Laird (1-0) allowed a run in the third inning while yielding three hits and three walks, with three strikeouts. Viloria then faced just 10 batters over the next three innings, with three Ls and one hit allowed.
The Irish pitching staff has allowed just three earned runs in its last four games, dropping the team ERA to an eye-popping 2.46. The Notre Dame pitchers also have combined for 78 Ks in 84 innings, with just 27 walks and 71 hits allowed.
Lefthanded reliever Mitch walk (0-1) suffered the loss, after allowing the five runs on eight hits and three walks over four and two-thirds innings, with two strikeouts. Righthanded starter Joe Ziemba started the game by throwing three shutout innings-allowing two hits while striking out four-before leaving due to an apparent injury.
Illinois (7-2) jumped ahead in the first, sparked by leadoff hitter Creston Whitaker’s triple off the wall in left-center. Andy Schutzenhofer them walked on four pitches before Craig Marquie’s one-out groundout to sophomore third baseman Andrew Bushey plated what would be the only Illini run of the game.
The Irish surged ahead in the bottom of the fourth, with freshman rightfielder Brian Stavisky reaching on a one-out single through the right side of the infield before Felker sent the first pitch he saw from Walk over the wall in right-center field.
Notre Dame tacked on two more runs in the fifth, with sophomore Matt Strickroth sending a pinch-hit, leadoff double over Whitaker’s head in center field. Junior second baseman Ben Cooke then bunted the runner over and O’Toole walked on four pitches before Porzel delivered a two-out triple to the alley in right, yielding a 4-1 Irish lead.
The game’s final run came in the seventh, without a ball leaving the infield. O’Toole drew a two-out walk, stole second and moved up on sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley’s single into the hole between first and second base. Porzel then found the hole on the other side, sending the shortstop far to his left for a run-scoring infield single.
Naumann gave up a pair of two-out singles in the ninth, with Luke Simmons slapping the ball through the right side and Jeff Gertz singling through the left. But Corbin induced Roy Fischer into a game-ending flyout to right field, for his third save of the season and 12th of his career (tying the Irish record shared by current junior Aaron Heilman, Mike Coffey, ’88-’90, and current lefthanded Major League hopeful Chris Michalak, ’90-’93).
Illinois 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 1 6 1
Notre Dame 0-0-0 2-2-0 1-0-X – 5 10 1
Ziemba, Walk (4), Sprengard (80 and Gertz. Laird, Viloria (6), Naumann (9) and O’Toole.