April 26, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – An overflow crowd was treated to an exciting night of baseball on Friday at Eck Stadium, with Notre Dame answering Arizona State’s rally with three runs of its own in the pivotal fifth inning – en route to the 12th straight victory for the Irish, 9-4.
All 2,800 tickets were sold – in addition to 100 standing-room-only passes – to shatter the stadium’s previous attendance record by nearly 800 tickets (2,104 fans saw the ND-Evansville game on April 23, 1994).
Notre Dame (30-12) – now victorious in 21 of its last 23 – again received clutch plays from a variety of players, with senior DH Matt Bok again delivering the decisive hit while junior righthander J.P. Gagne continued his mastery out of the bullpen, logging the final 4 1/3 innings to pick up the win.
Arizona State (26-16) tied the game with four runs in the top of the fifth but the Sun Devils were shut out in the other eight innings, after hitting into two double plays and stranding 11 baserunners (plus a runner caught stealing).
Gagne (6-3) – who dropped his ERA to a team-best 2.29 – and freshman righthanded starter John Axford held ASU to five hits but there were plenty of other baserunners for the Sun Devils, thanks to six walks, four hit batters and three Irish errors. Gagne’s recent dominance in six relief outings – after making his first seven appearances as a starter – has featured 18.2 shutout innings, 14 strikeouts, 10 hits and just four walks (he is 4-0 with a save in that six-game, 16-day stretch of shutout relief).
His 66-pitch outing on the second of three Friday-night games at Eck Stadium this season included five strikeouts, one walk and jus two hits allowed. The Irish continued to total more runs than runners left on base (6), with the last seven games seeing ND total 62 runs while stranding just 48.
Bok’s clutch two-run single represented the fourth time in the last three weeks that the veteran switch-hitter has delivered in the key moment of a game. His seventh-inning single broke a 2-2 tie in the series finale versus St. John’s and led to a three-run inning in that 5-2 win (April 7) . Two days later, his poked a single into left field to plate Javier Sanchez with the game-winning run as the Irish rallied for a 5-4 win over Western Michigan. His most vivid play came in the seven-inning opener versus Virginia Tech (April 12), when he led off the bottom of the 11th with a triple to the rightfield wall before scoring for the tense 2-1 win.
Friday’s hit came earlier in the game than the above three but had the added drama of a tie score, two outs and a 1-2 count. Junior rightfielder Brian Stavisky had reached with one out, on a full-count double down the rightfield line, before Andrew Bushey walked on four pitches to end the night for junior righthander Robbie McClellan.
ASU opted for junior lefthander Bryce Kartler to face the lefthanded-hitting Paul O’Toole but Karlter plunked O’Toole with his first and only pitch, loading the bases with his 16th hit batter of the season. Freshman righthander Mark Sopko then took the mound and Bok came through on a 1-2 pitch, drilling the two-run single into right for the 6-4 lead. O’Toole later scored on a wild pitch and the Irish added single runs in the sixth and eighth for the final cushion.
Notre Dame’s four-run second inning included an RBI single from sophomore first baseman Joe Thaman, a two-run single to center by senior centerfielder Steve Stanley and an RBI groundball off the bat of sophomore second baseman Steve Sollmann.
ASU used three hits, three hit batters and a costly error to tie the game in the fifth – with Jeff Larish providing the tying hit on a two-out, two-run single up the middle. Three of the four runs credited to Axford were unearned, with his 102-pitch start also including four Ks, five walks, three hits and three hit batters.
McClellan (7-3) was tagged for six runs on six hits and three walks, with five Ks.
NOTES: The 12-game winning streak is the third-longest of the eight-year Paul Mainieri era, behind a 14-game streak in 1998 (April 8-23) and a 16-game run in 2001 (April 4-24) ? ND had allowed just five runs in the 5th inning of the previous 41 games – but the Irish then held true to form by scoring multiple runs of their own in the 5th (ND now owns a 40-9 edge in the 5th) ? Stanley has started all 230 games of his ND career (possibly tying the NCAA record for consecutive starts, pending verification) ? he raised his season batting average to .467 with a 4-for-4 game (his 25th multi-hit game of 2002, including six 3-hit games and four 4-hit games) ? Sollmann returned to his customary No. 2 spot in the batting order, allowing Bok and his .333 average to provide key RBI ability in the 7th spot ? the game was preceded by a ceremony honoring the last four Notre Dame head baseball coaches, including current ASU skipper Pat Murphy (head coach at ND from ’88-’94) ? the festive crowd included a contingent from the Notre Dame pep band.
ARIZONA STATE (26-16) 0-0-0 0-4-0 0-0-0 - 4 5 4NOTRE DAME (30-12) 0-4-0 0-3-1 0-1-X -- 9 9 3Robbie McClellan (L, 7-3), Bryce Kartler (5), Mark Sopko (5) and Casar Castillo.John Axford, J.P. Gagne (W, 6-3) and Paul O'Toole.Triple: Steve Garrabrants (ASU). Doubles: Cesar Castillo (ASU), Brian Stavisky (ND).