May 19, 1999
TRENTON, N.J. – Junior lefthander Tim Kalita tossed six shutout innings while sophomore Alec Porzel and junior Brant Ust hit consecutive home runs, as No. 1 seed Notre Dame staked a 3-0 lead over No. 6 seed West Virginia in rain-suspended baseball action Wednesday at the double-elimination BIG EAST Championship, which is making its debut at Waterfront Park, home of the minor-league Trenton Thunder.
The tournament’s opening game was halted in the bottom of the seventh inning, with one out and Irish runners on first and third base. The game will resume on Thursday in that exact situation, with an expected noon re-start time. The tournament then will proceed with the remainder of the first-day schedule, with No. 2 Rutgers and No. 5 St. John’s set to play at 3:30 p.m. while No. 3 Providence and No. 4 Seton Hall will play the 7:00 p.m. night game.
As a result of the suspension, the entire tournament will be pushed back one day, with games 4-6 to be played on Friday, games 7-9 on Saturday and games 10-11 on Sunday (the tournament originally was scheduled to conclude on Saturday). The final-day game times also will be moved up to noon and 3:30 (if necessary), as opposed to the original 3:30 and 7:00 times.
Wednesday’s game was halted at 1:48 p.m. and the teams waited for the next five hours and three minutes before play was suspended.
Tournament guidelines state that all games must be played out to nine innings, even if that requires stretching the game over two days. Any other rain delays later in the tournament will be evaluated on an individual basis by the BIG EAST baseball committee.
The winner of the Notre Dame-West Virginia game will face the loser of Providence-Seton Hall, on Friday at 3:30. The loser of the Irish-Mountaineers game then will face an elimination game on Friday at noon, versus the loser of the Rutgers-St. Johns game.
The suspension ultimately could work in the favor of Notre Dame and West Virginia, who would have the luxury of bringing back their Wednesday starters for a potential Sunday game, while the other four teams are expected to throw their top pitchers in Thursday’s action.
Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri announced that the Irish will open the eighth inning with sophomore righthander Aaron Heilman back on the mound. Heilman tossed just 19 pitches in the seventh inning, posting two strikeouts while allowing one hit.
Kalita (4-1) held WVU to two hits and one walk while totaling five strikeouts, seven groundouts and a huge double-play ball during his 75-pitch outing. Kalita-who allowed 12 first-inning runs during his previous 14 starts-again struggled early before retiring the final 12 batters he faced.
WVU senior righthander Jeremy Cummings set down the first 10 Notre Dame batters of the game before seeing the Irish put three runs on the board in the fourth. Cummings allowed two earned runs on four hits and no walks, with eight Ks.
Notre Dame scored the only runs of the day in quick fashion. Freshman catcher Paul O’Toole reached on a one-out fielding error by second baseman Chris Schmidt. O’Toole then stole second base before Porzel went the other way with a 1-2 fastball, launching the ball over the fence in right-center field for a 2-0 Irish lead. It was Porzel’s ninth home run of the season and his third in the last 10 games.
Ust-who has struggled at previous BIG EAST Championships-then delivered a classic opposite-field shot, drilling a 1-0 outside fastball over the rightfield fence, 30 feet left of the foulpole, for his 17th home run of the season. Ust now stands just three home runs shy of equaling the Irish season record of 20, set by Frank Jacobs in 1991.
Porzel made his first career Notre Dame start at shortstop while the Irish elected to use Ust as the designated hitter (the first non-infield start of his career).
The Mountaineers had a golden chance at a big first inning, when Kalita hit Schmidt with a pitch, served up a double to center field by Nate Reeser and walked Lance Williams. But Todd Brock flew out to shallow center field, holding the runners, and Eddie Weightman bounced out to Porzel for a rally-killing double play.
Dwayne Smith then singled to open the third and moved up on a one-out wild pitch from Kalita. But Reeser grounded out to the pitcher and Williams hit a fly ball to right for the third out.
Notre Dame was poised to pad its lead when play was suspended in the seventh. Ust ripped a double that landed in the leftfield corner and junior Matt Nussbaum followed with a hit-and-run single to the shortstop Reeser, who fielded the ball as he fell but had no play. Junior Jeff Felker’s groundball moved pinch-runner Ken Meyer to third, with freshman Andrew Bushey stepping to the plate as play was suspended.
PAUL MAINIERI: “Its always unfortunate when you have delays like this, especially for the fans who waited for five hours in hopes that we would finish the game. Of course, this could play into our advantage but we have to take care of business. If we are fortunate enough to advance deep into the tournament, it would be a huge bonus to bring back Kalita for another start.”
BRANT UST: “I haven’t performed as well as I would like in the last two BIG EAST tournaments and I was hoping to get the chance to make an impact today. But we still have a lot of work to do, and that starts with finishing this game tomorrow. … It was a strange feeling to not be playing in the field.”
WEST VIRGINIA 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 0 3 1NOTRE DAME 0-0-0 3-0-0 3 4 0
Jeremy Cummings and Dwayne Smith. Tim Kalita,Aaron Heilman (7) and Paul O'Toole.
NOTRE DAME BASEBALL POSTGAME NOTES
vs. West Virginia (May 19, 1999)
The Irish already had endured a lengthy delay this season. The second game of the April 17 doubleheader vs. Boston College at Notre Dame was delayed for 37 minutes before enduring a second delay that lasted 2:31.
Notre Dame and West Virginia have met in each of the past four BIG EAST Championships and six times overall, with the Irish owning a 3-2 edge in the previous five games (wins in the last two games).
During the past four seasons (since ND and WVU joined the BIG EAST), the Irish and Mountaineers have waged a close series. In fact, all but one of the 14 previous games between the teams has been decided by 1-3 runs, including three one-run games and six two-run games.
BRANT UST NOTES
Ust has five career home runs vs. West Virginia, his most versus any BIG EAST team. In the 1998 first-day tournament matchup between ND and WVU, Jeff Wagner lifted a two-run double that fell out of the glove of diving RF Abe Barker (right on the line) and Ust followed with a memorable game-tying, opposite-field shot off the Mohegan Sun promotional sign. The Irish went on to win 5-4 in 10 innings and ultimately advanced to the championship game.
Ust’s 46 career home runs are the third-most ever by a player at a current BIG EAST school (including years when not a BIG EAST member), behind Mo Vaughn’s 57 and Wagner’s 49.
Ust’s 17 home runs are three shy of the team record (20), set by Frank Jacobs in 1991. Jacobs is the only Irish player to hit more than 18 home runs in a single season. Ust had 13 home runs before April but totaled just three in the final seven weeks of the regular season.
Ust has started all 174 games of his Notre Dame career, making his first non-infield start as the DH today.
Ust is looking to atone for poor showings in the previous two BIG EAST Championships (4-for-17 in 1997, with 3 RBI; 3-for-18 in 1998, with 3 RBI). Ust also is looking to shake a second-half slump in 1999 (he hit .453 in March, .346 in April and .343 in May regular-season games).
Ust’s double was the 50th of his career, moving him into a tie with Wagner and Craig Counsell (1989-92) for fourth all-time at Notre Dame. Ust also now has 239 career hits, matching the three-year total posted by Scott Sollmann from 1994-96 and tied for sixth in the Irish record book.
Ust entered the day with just a .263 career batting average vs. WVU (10-for-38, in nine games). But those 10 hits had included four home runs and two doubles, leading to 13 RBI and eight runs scored.
Tim Kalita’s five strikeouts give him 91 Ks for the season, moving into fifth on the Irish single-season list behind Alex Shilliday and Brad Lidge (both had 93 in 1998), Frank Carpin (102 in 1958) and Aaron Heilman (109 and counting in 99).
Kalita also moved into sixth on the Irish career strikeout list, moving past 1950s player Tom Bujnowski (203).
Heilman needs to toss 1.2 more innings to become the first Irish pitcher since 1994 to toss 100-plus innings in a season.
If Heilman closes the game, it will mark the 12th save of his career, which would tie the Irish record shared by Mike Coffey (1988-90) and Chris Michalak (1990-93). It also would give the Notre Dame staff a team-record 15 saves for the season (the 1991 and 94 teams each totaled 14 saves).
Kalita is looking for just the 13th decision of his three-year career, despite 31 previous starts (he is 10-2 for his career, with 19 no-decisions).
Kalita’s updated career stats vs. WVU: four starts, 1-0 (prior to today), 3.42 ERA, 23 Ks, 7 walks and 27 hits in 26.1 innings.
TEAM AND PLAYER NOTES
Notre Dame’s 62 home runs are tied for fourth in team history, behind the 1998 (73), 1997 (66) and 1993 (64) teams.
The 1999 Irish staff has totaled an even 450 strikeouts, in 468.2 innings. The Irish need to toss just seven more Ks to break the team record set in 1998 (456).
Alec Porzel has three home runs in his last 10 games, each in different stadiums (also at Notre Dame and St. Johns).
Porzel hit just 5-for-25 (.200) in six previous games vs. WVU. But, like Ust, Porzel had made those previous hits count (two home runs, one double, five RBI, four runs). His leadoff home run in 1998 sparked a comeback in the seventh inning for a 4-3 win. The next day, Porzels 15th-inning home run beat WVU (5-3).
Notre Dame could post its 33rd win of the season by 1-4 runs. The previous wins have included 10 by one run, seven by two runs, 10 by three runs and five by four runs.