April 26, 2000
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Senior catcher and tri-captain Matt Nussbaum-who was featured in a Grand Rapids Press article earlier in the week-fittingly was involved in two of the game’s biggest plays on a night of many memorable moments, as the road-weary and No. 20-ranked Notre Dame baseball team pulled even with Michigan in the ninth inning, went ahead 5-4 in the 11th and then won the game on a play at the plate, in annual “Baseball Bash” action Wednesday night at Old Kent Park (home of the West Michigan Whitecaps).
Notre Dame (33-10)-which has played nine road games (plus two home games) in the last 12 days, in five different cities-held a 3-0 lead in the fifth, only to see Michigan (15-21-1) respond moments later with a big inning that produced a 4-3 lead for the Wolverines.
There were big plays and near-misses for both teams-particularly in the late innings-and the teams combined for 24 runners left on base (13 by the Irish). Nussbaum was one of several Irish offensive heroes, a group which included senior first baseman Jeff Felker, sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley and junior shortstop Alec Porzel. Senior righthander John Corbin closed the final three innings while Porzel punctuated the thrilling game by scrambling into right-center field and throwing a strike to the plate for the game’s final out.
Here’s how the final five innings played out:
* ND was running out of chances as it entered the 8th, vs. senior LHP Bryan Cranson. Senior 2B Jeff Perconte drew a full-count walk with one out, but sophomore 3B Andrew Bushey hit into a fielder’s choice and sophomore LF Paul O’Toole hit a foul popup to the 3B. … ND junior All-American Aaron Heilman completed his brief two-inning stint (21 pitches, 7 BF, 1 H, 2 Ks) in the 8th. Brock Koman drove a leadoff double to right-center but UM failed to bring him home, with Heilman recording a groundout and two Ks to get out of the jam.
* ND’s frustrations on the bases continued in the 9th, after sophomore DH Ken Meyer hit the first pitch of the inning for a leftside infield single and Stanley beat out a bunt to the right side (the 1B Mike Sokol had crept in throughout the game with Stanley at the plate but had to hold on Meyer in the 9th). … Sokol took several steps forward-in anticipation of a rare bunt from Porzel-but before a pitch was thrown, Cranson snapped a throw and the 2B Jordan Cantalames blocked the base while tagging out Meyer as he dove back to the bag. … Porzel kept the Irish alive with a 1-0 single to center and sophomore LHP Jeff Trzos induced Felker into a 1-2 flyout to left, but Nussbaum came through on a 2-0 count-lofting a single that landed inside the rightfield line, with Stanley racing home for the tying run.
* Michigan had a chance to end the game in regulation, after Jeff Quinn’s leadoff walk, Scott Tousa’s single through the left side and Rob Bobeda’s fielder’s choice-moving Quinn to third with two outs. But Corbin forced Jay Dines into an inning-ending flyout to center.
* Perconte led off the 10th with a five-pitch walk and moved up on Bushey’s bunt, but O’Toole struck out swinging and sophomore RHP Phil Lobert (0-2) retired the first batter he faced, forcing Meyer into a groundout to the shortstop.
* Corbin (2-0) retired the side in the bottom of the 10th before the Irish staged the winning rally. Stanley ignited things from the leadoff spot, drilling a 1-1 pitch that tucked inside the leftfield line for a single (the LF Bobeda quickly sent the ball back to the infield, preventing Stanley from picking up his usual extra base). After a Porzel flyout, Felker went with the first pitch and drove the ball into the gap in right-center-with Stanley again motoring all the way home as the Irish dugout erupted with the 5-4 lead.
* Corbin struck out Blake Rutkowski to lead off the 11th, but Quinn then sent a full-count pitch up the middle and Tousa flied out to center, before David Parrish worked to an 0-2 count. With Quinn running, Parrish sent a tricky groundball to the left of the 2B bag. Porzel ranged to his left in pursuit of the tough play but the ball then ricocheted off his body-bouncing in unusual fashion into shallow RC field. Quinn was waved home as Irish players converged on the ball. Stanley was charging from CF and offered to make the throw but Porzel quickly overruled him, grabbed the ball and threw a strike to Nussbaum, on the first-base side of the plate. As Quinn began his slide, Nussbaum dove across the plate and applied the tag-ending the game in the most dramatic of fashions.
* Irish freshman RHP J.P. Gagne (7 H, 2 BB, 6 Ks) tossed four shutout innings before a rocky 5th, when he allowed four runs (three earned). His classmate Brandon Viloria then tossed a scoreless 5th (H, HBP).
* The Irish plated the night’s first run in the 2nd, with Nussbaum leading off with a first-pitch single to the left side of the infield. After a stolen base and freshman 2B Kris Billmaier’s single to right, Bushey brought home the run with a first-pitch single through the right side.
* The Irish stretched to a 3-0 lead in the fifth, after loading the bases without a hit. Freshman LHP Rich Hill (4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K) hit leadoff batter Matt Strickroth with a 1-0 pitch and then plunked Meyer with a 2-1 offering before walking Stanley on five pitches. Sophomore righthander Bobby Wood then took the mound, serving up a 2-0 pitch to Porzel that the CF Rutkowski lost in the lights (Porzel was credited with a two-run double on the play, but Rutkowski would get his revenge with a huge throw in the 7th).
* Michigan stunningly snatched the lead with four runs in the 5th. Light-hitting Sokol led off with a 1-2 single and advanced on an errant throw from the LF Strickroth. Rutkowski followed with a one-out sacrifice bunt attempt to the left side but beat the throw to 1B. Quinn kept things going with a 2-2 blooper that landed just in front of freshman RF Brian Stavisky, with Sokol scoring on the play. Gagne hit Tousa with the next pitch and Parrish added another soft single, plating two runs with a bleeder over the left side of the infield. The go-ahead run came unearned, after Bobeda singled to right and Stavisky fumbled with the ball, allowing Tousa to score.
* The Irish had chances to tie in the 6th, 7th and 8th but failed to convert. Bushey beat out a 1-2 single to the second baseman with one out in the sixth and advanced on a two-out wild pitch, but Meyer went down swinging. … The Irish opened the 7th with singles from Stanley and Porzel, but Stanley was gunned down at third on a failed hit-and-run and the CF Rutkowski unleashed a strike to nail Porzel at the plate moments later, after Felker had singled up the middle.
NOTES: Michigan leads the all-time series (72-38) but the Irish hold a 4-3 edge in the six-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri-including wins in the last three games at Old Kent Park … the first “Baseball Bash” produced a 16-inning barnburner (Michigan won that ’95 game, 7-6) … the Irish improved to 6-1 in one-run games this season … Stanley (3-for-5) is 7-for-10 in two career games at OKP … Stavisky (0-for-6) ended his hitting streak at 10 games … Felker’s double was the 52nd of his career, edging him past former classmate Brant Ust (’97-’99) into 4th on the Irish all-time list … after playing 29 of its first 43 games away from home, the Irish are scheduled to close the regular season with 13 straight home games … ND dropped its team ERA from 2.81 to 2.80, good for 2nd-place currently in Div. I (Louisiana-Lafayette is at 2.68) … other updated ERAs from teams that entered the week in the national top 10: Rutgers (3.07), So. Carolina (3.12), Florida St. (3.14), Nebraska (3.20), Clemson (3.26), Stanford (3.34), Texas (3.37) and La.-Monroe (3.42) … Heilman-who entered the week ranked 33rd in the nation for ERA (2.33)-lowered that number to 2.26 while Viloria (0.64) and Corbin (2.13) also dropped their ERAs … ND improved to 13-4 this season when the opponent starts a lefthander.
Notre Dame 0-1-0 0-2-0 0-0-1 0-1 – 5 14 3
Michigan 0-0-0 0-4-0 0-0-0 0-0 – 4 12 2
Gagne, Viloria (6), Heilman (7), Corbin (9) and Nussbaum. Hill, Wood (5), Cranson (8), Trzos (9), Lobert (10) and Parrish.