May 17, 2000
BRIDGEWATER, N.J. – Boston College’s Mike Quirk was thrown out at the plate twice in the early innings but the senior rightfielder delivered the game’s biggest play with a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the ninth as the fifth-seeded Eagles pulled out a 4-3 win over No. 2 seed Notre Dame, in Wednesday’s first-round action at the BIG EAST Baseball Championship.
Notre Dame (42-15)-which is in quest of its first BIG EAST tournament title-now must win at least four straight games to achieve that goal and receive the conferences automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish next will face sixth-seeded Pittsburgh on Thursday at noon (eastern), in an elimination game that will open the second day of play at minor-league Somerset Ballpark.
Pittsburgh (31-23), just two weeks removed from a 1-2 series at Notre Dame, dropped an 11-3 game to top seed Rutgers earlier in the day. RU will play in Thursday’s late game vs. fourth-seeded Connecticut, which dropped an 8-2 game to Seton Hall in the final game of the opening round (BC and SHU will meet in Thursday’s middle game)
Friday’s pairings and schedule will be determined after the RU-UConn game, based on whether there are four or five teams remaining at the end of the second day.
The Irish elected not to start junior righthander Aaron Heilman, who last threw on Saturday and would have been pitching on just three days rest. But freshman righthander J.P. Gagne-who skipped a start in last weekend’s series vs. Rutgers while throwing four quick relief innings-turned in a strong six-inning performance and was in line for the win. Gagne had earned BIG EAST rookie-of-the week honors earlier this season after beating BC in the first game of a weekend series and he again proved hard to score on, allowing just one run over the six innings.
As has been his pattern for much of the season, Gagne-with several assists from the Irish defense-had to work out of multiple jams, after allowing seven hits and two walks. Gagne allowed three leadoff batters to reach base and stranded three runners in scoring position before yielding BCs first run of the game in the fifth. His totals included five strikeouts and six groundouts.
Boston College (34-18)-making its first appearance in the BIG EAST Tournament since 1991-received a solid complete game from senior righthander Steve Langone, who logged 113 pitches while evening his career record at 2-2 in five all-time appearances vs. the Irish (spanning 37 innings). Langone (8-2) entered the week ranked third in the nation with a 1.48 season ERA and that number rose just slightly, as one of the three Irish runs came unearned.
Langone-who posted an 11-1 complete-game win over the Irish earlier this season, with an unearned run, eight hits and one walk-scattered eight hits over the nine innings on Wednesday while posting five strikeouts and no walks (his eye-popping season totals now include 65 Ks and just six walks in 76 innings).
Two Irish outfielders and sophomore catcher Paul O’Toole combined to stop Quirk at the plate, in the first and third innings. Sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley started the game’s first big play with a throw from shallow center after Joe Kealty’s two-out single. Quirk took off from second base and was waved home but OToole came forward to get the short throw and pivoted into perfect positiong to block the plate and tag out the sliding runner.
Two innings later, Quirk took off from second on Langone’s two-out single but senior leftfielder Matt Nussbaum had time to send a throw that bounced in several feet outside the third-base line. O’Toole again collected the ball and launched his body for another rally-killing tag at the plate.
The Irish rallied with two outs to open the scoring in the fourth. Brian Stavisky deposited a 2-2 pitch down the leftfield line for a double before scoring on O’Tooles single to left. After a stolen base and throwing error by the catcher, Andrew Bushey won the full-count battle by sending an RBI single through the right side of the infield for a 2-0 Irish lead.
Both teams scored single runs in the fifth, with BC’s Mike Hubbard hitting a leadoff double before scoring on groundouts to the right side by Mike Gambino and Quirk. Jeff Felker then delivered a sacrifice fly to restore the two-run cushion, after Steve Stanley’s one-out single to center and Alec Porzel’s double that sailed past the third-base bag before skidding down the line.
The Eagles forged a 3-2 game with a run in the seventh, versus sophomore righthander Matt Buchmeier. Jeff Mackor hit a leadoff single through the left side and moved up on Hubbard’s sacrifice bunt before scoring on Gambino’s first-pitch single to center.
Corbin was in line for his 12th save of the season before pinch-hitter Chris Rosado went with the first pitch for a one-out single up the middle. Gambino’s groundout moved the tying run to second before the lefthanded-hitting Quirk sent a 1-1 pitch over the leftfield wall for just his second home run of the season. Langone then retired the bottom of the Irish order in succession to close out the last-inning win.
NOTES: Since the BIG EAST Tournament began in 1985 (it was four-team tournament until 96), just three teams have bounced back from an opening loss to win the title-with the last coming in 1991 (Villanova, St. Johns did the same in 87 and 88) … the Irish continue to look for better offensive production in conference tournament play, as Notre Dame has a combined batting average of just .260 in 19 all-time BIG EAST Tournament games (with an average of just 4.9 runs/gm) … ND is just 2-3 in opening games at the BET but bounced back in ’96 to reach the title game after an opening loss (the ’97 team posted two wins after losing the opener) … ND’s last four losses in the BET each have seen the opposing pitcher throw a complete game … ND next faces another team that has ended a BIG EAST Tournament drought (Pitt’s last trip to the postseason was 1995) … prior to Wednesday’s loss, ND had been 11-1 this season in games decided by one run or in extra innings (the previous close loss came on the second day of the season, 5-4 vs. Ohio State) … ND’s home run streak ended at eight games … Felker moved into a tie with former teammate Mike Amrhein (’97) for 4th on the ND career games played list, with 213 … Porzel’s double was the 47th of his career, one behind Joe Binkiewicz (’92) for 8th on the ND all-time list … Porzel also is tied for 5th in the ND record book for single-season doubles (21), one behind Craig Counsells 1992 total.
BOSTON COLLEGE 0-0-0 0-1-0 1-0-2 - 4 12 3NOTRE DAME 0-0-0 2-1-0 0-0-0 - 3 8 0
Langone and Mackor. Gagne, Buchmeier (7), Corbin (9) and OToole.