March 2, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Senior righthander Aaron Heilman tossed the first nine-inning shutout of his All-America career while the Notre Dame offense came through with the clutch plays to beat Florida Atlantic ace Petersen Benjamin, as the 10th-ranked Irish posted their sixth straight victory, 3-0 over FAU, in Devil Rays College Invitational action Friday at Florida Power Park.
Heilman (3-0) scattered five hits and one walk while striking out nine FAU batters in his economical 110-pitch outing. After working out of a fifth-inning jam (runners on first and second with no outs), he retired 13 of the next 14 batters before second baseman Steve Sollmann’s fielding error with two outs in the ninth.
Notre Dame (6-1) again played without injured rightfielder and leading hitter Brian Stavisky (out with a hamstring pull) while the Irish faced the opposing team’s top pitcher for the sixth time in seven games this season. FAU-which has posted impressive wins over Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma State-dropped to 10-6 for the season.
The quickly-moving game lasted just two hours and could have ended a few minutes earlier, if not for Sollmann’s error and a single to left field by Mike Valdez. Heilman then struck out L.J. Biernbaum to end the game.
Benjamin (2-2) was the hard-luck loser after giving up the three runs in his complete-game effort, with the righthander allowing 10 hits and no walks while posting four Ks.
Heilman kept the ball down in the zone for most of the day, as just six balls left the infield. His 27 outs included the nine strikeouts, 11 groundball outs (two on a double play) and just two flyouts, plus two infield popups, two infield lineouts and a rundown play (one of FAU’s five hits was an infield single).
The Irish claimed a 2-0 lead in the fourth, sparked by junior centerfielder Steve Stanley’s sharp one-out single through the right side and stolen base. Senior shortstop Alec Porzel followed with a single to right field before junior catcher Paul O’Toole plated the game’s first run, working deep into the count and slapping a single through the right side.
Sophomore leftfielder Kris Billmaier drove in the second Irish run, after reaching out and poking a single into shallow center field for the 2-0 lead.
The Blue Wave was poised to get right back in the game, with runners on first and second base and no outs. But Heilman induced Dean Devine into a 6-4-3 double play and Rob Orton hit a foul popup to third baseman Andrew Bushey, ending the threat.
The Irish picked up an insurance run in the seventh, with freshman first baseman Joe Thaman singling down the rightfield line and junior DH Ken Meyer executing the hit-and-run through the right side. Thaman then scampered home on Orton’s passed ball, for a 3-0 game.
Heilman’s 2001 season totals now include an 0.86 ERA, 23 Ks, four walks and seven hits allowed in 21 innings. He lowered his career ERA to 2.66, narrowly trailing Phil Donnely (2.65, ’61-’63) for fourth-best in Irish history.
Heilman (31-7) now sits alone in fourth place on the Irish list for career wins, just behind 1993 graduate David Sinnes (32-8), while his .816 career winning pct. remains best by an Irish pitcher in 77 years and fifth all-time (just behind Bill Heyl’s .818/18-4, from 1909-11).
Heilman owns three previous seven-inning shutouts, blanking Villanova in 1999 and 2000 while shutting out Pittsburgh last season. He has pitched nine-plus innings in five career games while reaching nine-plus Ks in 10 games during his Irish career.
Florida Atlantic (10-6) 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 – 0 5 0
#10 Notre Dame (6-1) 0-0-0 2-0-0 1-0-X – 3 10 1
Petersen Benjamin (L, 2-2) and Rob Orton. Aaron Heilman (W, 3-0) and Paul O’Toole.