April 12, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame’s first Friday-night baseball games ever at Eck Stadium packed plenty of drama, as senior DH Matt Bok again delivered the clutch hit in the 11-inning opener while junior righthanders Ryan Kalita, J.P. Gagne and Peter Ogilvie combined to hold Virginia Tech to a pair of earned runs in 20 innings of work, as the Irish swept a pivotal BIG EAST Conference doubleheader from the visiting Hokies, 2-1 and 4-2.
Notre Dame (21-12, 8-6 BIG EAST) – now riding a 12-2 overall streak, since opening conference play with four losses – moved up in the jampacked BIG EAST standings which include two teams with four losses (one 8-4, one 7-4) and three teams at 7-5. The other 10 teams complete the week’s play with Sunday doubleheaders while the Irish will enjoy a rare weekend off from competition.
Virginia Tech (15-15, 7-5) – which rallied for a pair of one-run wins vs. ND in the 2001 doubleheader, before posting 4-3 and 5-2 BIG EAST Tournament wins over the Irish – ended up on the other end of Friday’s close games, including the tense seven-inning opener that extended through four innings of extra play.
The opening game saw the teams combine for 31 baserunners, only three of which crossed home plate while 25 were left stranded (13 for the Irish). Notre Dame continued its recent trend of extra-inning success, as the Irish are 13-2-1 in their last 16 games that have extended to extra frames, dating back to a 1999 loss to Boston College.
The clutch pair of wins marked just the second time in six tries that Notre Dame has swept a BIG EAST doubleheader this season while the Irish have yet to lose a home BIG EAST series since late in the 1998 season, spanning 17 series (ND has won 16 of those recent home series, plus Thursday’s split with Pittsburgh).
Kalita – starting in place of freshman Chris Niesel, who was out due to illness – combined with Gagne (4-3) in the opener to limit the Hokies to an unearned run on nine hits and two walks before Ogilvie (4-1) rose to the occasion with the third complete game of his brief Notre Dame career (he did not pitch in 2000, due to injury). Ogilvie’s 121-pitch outing included two earned runs allowed on nine hits and one walk, with six strikeouts and 13 groundball outs. He allowed eight baserunners in the first three innings before facing just two batters over the minimum (20) during the final six innings.
Notre Dame’s school-record 216-game scoring streak was on the line in the seven-inning opener, with the Irish facing the nation’s top-ranked lefthander in the form of Joe Saunders (ranked 11th overall on Baseball America’s list of top prospects). With Kalita keeping the game at 1-0, the Irish finally broke through in the sixth, sparked by lefthanded-hitting Steve Stanley’s leadoff double that was misjudged by leftfielder Chris Stanton. Saunders then caught Brian Stavisky looking at a 1-2 pitch and Stanley stole third before scoring when junior rightfielder Kris Billmaier drilled another 1-2 pitch up the middle, past the drawn-in infield.
Gagne – who had been on the losing end of a pair of tough losses to the Hokies in 2001 – then took the mound to start the seventh, with Kalita’s six innings including six hits, one walk and five strikeouts. Gagne went on to allow just three hits, one walk and two hit batters over the final five innings, with one strikeout and 10 groundball outs.
Saunders finally was forced from the game after eight innings, with his 134-pitch outing including 11 strikeouts, eight hits and no walks. Fellow lefthander Pat Pinkman maintained the 1-1 tie into the 10th before yielding to junior righthander Mike Crisci (0-1).
Virginia Tech entered the day with the potent 1-2 starting tandem of Saunders (5-0, 2.32 ERA) and senior righthander Jason Bush (4-2, 4.30), whose complete-game effort had eliminated Notre Dame from the 2001 BIG EAST Tournament. But the Irish managed to outlast Saunders while touching Bush for three runs (two earned) on seven hits and one walk, with two strikeouts.
Both teams had runners on second base in the eighth before Spencer Harris reached third base, with two outs in the top of the ninth. But Gagne induced a full-count groundout from Brad Bauder to end the threat. John West then was on third in the 10th but Gagne rolled up another inning-ending groundout, this time from Wyatt Toregas. The Irish answered by loading the bases, but Crisci came on to get the rally-killing flyout.
Bok – 5-for-13 as a pinch-hitter with the Irish – came through with a huge hit for the third time in the last six games (his seventh-inning single gave ND a 3-2 lead in the 5-2 win over St. John’s while his RBI single capped the 9th-inning comeback that beat Western Michigan, 5-4). Crisci fell behind in the count before Bok launched the 2-1 offering over the head of rightfielder Matt Kalish and off the fence for a leadoff triple. Two batters later, sophomore first baseman Joe Thaman drilled a shot back to the mound, with the ball glancing off Crisci and rolling to the third-base line as Bok scampered home for the emotional ending.
The Irish opened the nightcap with a single run, thanks to Stanley’s leadoff single and stolen base, Bok’s hustling single on the attempted sacrifice bunt and Stavisky’s sac. fly to center . The Hokies used a single by Chris Winterfeldt and doubles by Marc Tugwell and West to edge ahead in the top of the third (2-1) but Notre Dame tied the game moments later, thanks to Bok’s two-out, full-count single up the middle, an errant pickoff throw and Stavisky’s RBI double into left field.
The sixth and seventh innings provided the turning point of the nightcap, with the Irish manufacturing a run in the sixth on Stavisky’s leadoff walk, Paul O’Toole’s sac. bunt, Andrew Bushey’s groundout and Billmaier’s single up the middle. The hosts then turned a 6-4-3 double play to wipe out Stanton’s single before Tugwell was gunned down trying to stretch a double, with Billmaier relaying the ball to second baseman Steve Sollmann, who then one-hopped a rocket throw from shallow right field, with Bushey slapping down the tag to stunningly end the threat.
Thaman’s leadoff single chased Bush in the seventh, with Pinkman returning to the mound and nailing Thaman with a pickoff move. But Stanley sent the next pitch into the right-center gap and the speedy senior motored into third while Kalish fumbled with the ball, with Pinkman’s wild pitch then plating the fourth Irish run.
NOTES: Stanley’s 45.0 at-bats per K this season (135/3) would rank 1st in the ND record book (since ’69), just ahead of Rick Pullano’s 44.0 in ’78 (132/3) … Stanley’s 4-for-9 day (3 R) leaves his season average at .459 … his 93 career runs scored in BIG EAST regular-season games have tied the BIG EAST record (set by David DeJesus of Rutgers) while Stanley’s 137 career BIG EAST hits are just one shy of that BIG EAST mark, held by former RU shortstop Darren Fenster … Ogilvie pushed his career record to 9-2 while dropping his season ERA to 3.06 (Kalita’s dipped to 2.35, tops among ND pitchers with 15-plus innings, while Gagne’s fell to 2.85) … Stanley is riding an eight-game hitting streak and has hits in 31 of 33 games this season … ND and VT have played six games during the past two seasons, with the Hokies holding a 4-2 edge in wins while outscoring the Irish by just 24-21 in those six tight games (four decided by one run) … ND’s team ERA (3.39) is just shy of ND’s final 2001 ERA (3.22) that ranked 6th in the nation … ND posted a 2.50 four-game ERA while hitting .355 vs. Pittsburgh and VT, led by Stanley (9-for-17) and three players at 6-for-14 (Stavisky, Bushey and O’Toole).
VIRGINIA TECH 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0 – 1 9 3
NOTRE DAME 0-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-1 – 2 13 2
Joe Saunders, Pat Pinkman (9), Mike Crisci (11, L, 0-1) and Jed English.
Ryan Kalita, J.P.Gagne (7, W, 4-3) and Paul O’Toole.
Triple: Matt Bok (ND).
Doubles: Steve Stanley (ND), Brian Stavisky (ND), Andrew Bushey (ND), John West (VT).
VIRGINIA TECH 0-0-2 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 2 9 3
NOTRE DAME 1-0-1 0-0-1 1-0-X – 4 8 1
Jason Bush (L, 4-3), Pat Pinkman (7), Brett Cory (8) and Wyatt Toregas.
Peter Ogilvie (W, 4-1) and Paul O’Toole.
Doubles: Steve Stanley (ND), Brian Stavisky (ND), Marc Tugwell 2 (VT), John West (VT).