April 1, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame’s J.P. Gagne has made a name for himself by bouncing back from rough outings but his performance on Monday afternoon ranked as one of the most noteworthy in his Irish career, as the junior righthander went the distance while holding Brigham Young to three hits in a quick-moving 1-0 victory at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (13-10), which won its home opener for the seventh consecutive season, managed just five hits versus senior lefthander Jeff Stone, the hard-luck loser despite allowing just six baserunners in his 71-pitch outing.
(Schedule note: the teams are slated to play again on Tuesday at 6:05 EST, one hour later than the original time released in early preseason, most of ND’s midweek night games will be 6:05 starts).
Junior Mike Holba – who did not travel to any of the first 22 games this season – was the unlikely offensive hero in the tight game, while batting eighth in the lineup and serving as the designated hitter. The 6-8, 240-pound righthander pulled a 2-0 pitch into the left-center gap for a one-out double before moving up on Joe Thaman’s grounder back to the mound and scoring on a wild pitch.
Neither team made an error in a game that raced by in one hour and 39 minutes, with the teams combining for just nine baserunners (each team stranded three, with one Irish runner picked off and another forced out on a double play).
Gagne’s first career shutout with the Irish included seven strikeouts, eight groundouts, six infield popups and six flyouts – with 71 of his 108 pitches going for strikes. The outing came just four days after Gagne (2-2) was knocked around in his start at West Virginia, allowing five first-inning runs on six hits and a hit batter before being relieved prior to the second inning (ND rallied for a 10-6 win).
Stone (0-5) – who went 26-11 during his first three seasons – located 41 of his 71 pitches for strikes while posting one strikeout and facing 28 batters in his eight innings of work.
BYU’s best chance came in the eighth, when Lars Birkeland laced a two-out triple that narrowly eluded backpedaling centerfielder Steve Stanley. But Gagne buckled down versus the No. 9 hitter, shortstop Ranger Weins, who fell behind in the count (0-2) before flying out to right field on a full-count pitch.
Stanley pushed his hitting streak to nine games (he has hit safely in 22 of 23 games overall) with a one-out single to left in the first inning, but Stone snapped a quick pickoff throw to erase Stanley from the bases.
BYU’s Dave Jensen led off the second with a double to left-center but Gagne induced a flyout from Rob Itri and struck out Kevin Bills and Ryan Chambers to maintain the 0-0 score.
The Cougars added another double with one out in the fourth, when Matt Carson found the right-center gap, but Jensen fouled out to third baseman Andrew Bushey and Itri went down swinging to kill the threat. Steve Sollmann’s infield single gave the Irish a runner in the bottom of the inning but Price served up a pair of flyouts to leave the runner at first.
Notre Dame had a chance to pad its lead in the fifth, after Javier Sanchez legged out an infield single, but Price rolled up pair of groundouts (including a double play) to keep the score at 1-0. The Irish then fashioned the only two-runner scenario of the day – thanks to Ken Meyer’s sixth-inning single and Sollmann’s two-out walk on a full count – but Price induced another groundball to set up the tense finish.
Notes: Gagne’s 3.06 season ERA is tops among ND pitchers with 10-plus innings (his ERA would be 1.84, minus the rough first inning at WVU) … he also leads the staff in low opponent batting average (.231) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.6, 28/5), with his impressive nine-inning averages including 7.6 hits, 7.1 Ks and just 1.3 BBs … junior leftfielder Brian Stavisky missed his 13th start of the season (the first nine due to a shoulder injury and the last four following a facial fracture) … the Irish also elected not to play freshman shortstop/DH Matt Macri, who continues to be eased back into fulltime status as he recovers from a sore elbow … the status of both players should be clarified by midweek.
Brigham Young (11-16-1) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 0 3 0
Notre Dame (13-10) 0-0-1 0-0-0 0-0-X – 1 5 0
Jeff Stone (L, 0-5) and Lars Birkeland.
J.P. Gagne (W, 2-2) and Paul O’Toole.
Triple: Birkeland (BYU).
Doubles: Mike Holba (ND), Matt Carson (BYU), Dave Jensen (BYU).