April 15, 2000
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Notre Dame junior All-American Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) tied a BIG EAST Conference record and came just shy of the Irish record with an 18-strikeout effort, lifting Notre Dame to a 3-1 victory in 10 innings over West Virginia in twilight doubleheader action Saturday at Hawley Field. After the first game had extended well past the originally-scheduled seven innings, the teams then played the nine-inning nightcap–with WVU posting a 7-2 win.
Heilman–whose previous career best was 12 strikeouts, earlier this season versus Georgia–seemingly got stronger as the game wore on, spotting his patented tough slider with regularity in the closing innings while delivering a fastball that still touched 91 miles-per hour in the lategoing. He retired 15 straight batters from the 5th-10th innings and struck out 10 of the final 12 batters he faced, including seven straight before yielding a single by Todd Cisneros with two outs in the bottom of the 10th. But Kevin Olkowski-who had two of WVU’s six hits in the game-went down swinging to end the opener of the three-game series.
Heilman’s 18 strikeouts tied the BIG EAST record set by Seton Hall’s Jason Grilli in a 1997 game versus Connecticut (Grilli went on to become the fourth pick in the first round of the 1997 amateur draft, as a selection of the San Francisco Giants). Frank Carpin is the only other Notre Dame pitcher ever to record 18-plus strikeouts in a game, with 19 in a 10-inning win over Indiana on April 16, 1958 (12-10).
One mark that did fall was the Hawley Field record for strikeouts in a game, as former WVU pitchers Kim West (vs. Geneva, 1971) and Wes Shaw (vs. Fairmont State, 1989) had shared that record with 16-strikeout games.
Heilman’s memorable day included just six hits and two walks allowed, with 11 groundball outs and just one flyout. His 18-strikeout game gives Heilman 270 career strikeouts in 240innings, pushing him past Chris Michalak (263, `90-’93) and former teammate Alex Shilliday (265, `96-’99) into third on the Irish career strikeout list, trailing only Tom Price(276, `91-’94) and David Sinnes (315, `90-’93). Heilman has averaged 10.10 strikeouts per nine innings during his career, the best ratio ever posted by a Notre Dame pitcher with 140-plus career strikeouts.
All nine WVU starters–plus reserve Matt McGee–were strikeout victims, with Mike Frownfelter and Eddie Weightman each registering three Ks in the game (four others had two strikeouts each). Heilman’s strikeouts by inning progressed as follows: 1-3-0-2-2-0-2-2-3-3. Six of the strikeouts came on called third strikes while just two of the 18 Ks came on 3-2 counts (three on 0-2, nine on 1-2, four on 2-2). In fact, Heilman reached three-ball counts versus just seven of the 39 batters he faced in the game.
Heilman lowered his season ERA to 2.09 and his career ERA to 2.43, second-best in Notre Dame history and just shy of Nick Palihnich’s record (2.36, 1959-61). Thr complete game was Heilman’s sixth of the season and the 12th of his career while his 2000 season totals now include 74 strikeouts, just 12 walks and 48 hits allowed in 64.2 innings.
The Irish staff–which entered the week with the nation’s sixth-best team ERA (3.06)-lowered that number to 2.96 after Saturday’s pair of games.
Notre Dame’s winning rally came versus lefthanded reliever Matt Blethen (1-4) in the top of the 10th, with sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley reaching on a leadoff single to center field. Brian Stavisky then hit the ball to the right side but the first baseman Olkowski fumbled with the ball. The Irish cashed in the error for two unearned runs, with junior shortstop Alec Porzel hitting an RBI double to right-center followed by an intentional walk to senior first baseman Jeff Felker and sophomore third baseman Andrew Bushey’s sacrifice fly to left.
Felker and Bushey were the heroes four innings earlier, as the Irish forced extra innings with a run in the sixth. The lefthanded-hitting Felker went with a full-count pitch from righthanded starter Ty Russell, slapping the ball through the left side of the infield. Bushey then delivered on a 1-2 pitch, moving Felker to third on the hit-and-run with an opposite-field single down the leftfield line. Felker scampered home moments later on a wild pitch.
WVU scored its lone run in the second inning, after singles from Todd Brock and Chris Schmidt (who beat out a slow two-out roller to the second baseman Jeff Perconte), followed by a wild pitch and a run-producing passed ball.
Heilman pushed his season record to 7-1 while his career mark now stands at 25-6.
Notre Dame (25-9 after the doubleheader, 7-4 BIG EAST) posted its sixth straight victory over West Virginia and ninth in the last 10 games of the series. The Irish also now have played 27 straight BIG EAST doubleheaders since last suffering a sweep by the opponent.
West Virginia (17-19, 4-6) kept alive its chance at advancing to the six-team BIG EAST Tournament (see below).
GAME 2 RECAP
* ND freshman RHP J.P. Gagne (5-1) suffered his first loss of the season (5 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 1 BB, 4 Ks) while WVU junior RHP Shane Rhodes (4-3) recorded the complete-game win (5 H, 1 BB, 8 Ks).
* WVU claimed a 1-0 lead in the 2nd, as Tim McCabe led off with a full-count walk, moved up on Brock’s sac. bun and scored on Weightman’s double to left.
* The hosts big inning came in the 3rd, sparked by one-out singles by Cisneros (to right) and Olkowski (to left-center) … Brock then delivered a two-out, RBI single to left and Weightman followed with a 1-2 single to right, for a 3-0 lead … Gagne’s wild pitch then allowed Brock to score, capping the three-run inning.
* ND broke through for a run in the 6th, with Stanley beating out a slow roller to the 3B McCabe and motoring all the way to third on the errant throw before scoring on Porzel’s flyout to left.
*WVU scored three unearned runs in the 6th, vs. freshman Matt Laird … Schmidt doubled to right-center on a 2-2 pitch and Josh McMillen walked on a full count with two outs before Mike Frownfelter’s groundball was misplayed by the SS Porzel … a passed ball then brought one run home before Cisneros stroked a two-run single to right.
* ND capped the scoring in the 9th, with sophomore C Matt Bok sending a full-count double to left-center before coming around to score on a groundout and wild pitch.
AROUND THE BIG EAST
* Seton Hall (7-4) remains tied with ND for 2nd, after splitting a pair at Boston College (7-3 win in 8 inn., 9-8 loss in 10 inn.).
* Pittsburgh (8-5) surged into 4th with a pair of home wins over Connecticut (18-0, 10-3).
* St. John’s (5-6) dropped into 5th with its pair of losses at Rutgers.
* Three teams are tied for 6th at 6-8: UConn, BC and Villlanova, which swept last-place Georgetown (1-13) in a pair of games in Philadelphia (10-5, 6-2).
* WVU (4-6) stands alone in 9th but is just two games out of 6th, with three games “in hand.
ND 0-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-0 2 — 3 9 0
WVU 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 — 1 6 2
Heilman and Nussbaum. Russell, Kirkland (6), Blethen (8) and Cisneros.
ND 0-0-0 0-0-1 0-0-1 — 2 5 2
WVU 0-1-3 0-0-3 0-0-0 — 7 9 3
Gagne, Laird (6), Naumann (7), O’Hagan (8) and Nussbaum, Bok (7). Rhodes and Cisneros