May 2, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame pushed across three runs in the seventh and final inning of the opener while West Virginia’s Joe McNamee delivered a two-run, 10th-inning single in the nightcap as the Irish and Mountaineers split an entertaining doubleheader, 4-3 and 11-9, in BIG EAST Conference action Saturday at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (36-13, 13-2 BIG EAST)—-which saw its 20-game BIG EAST home-winning streak end–hit three home runs in the doubleheader to give the Irish 67 for the season, surpassing last season’s record of 66. The Irish–who saw their offense record 14 outs in the nightcap with runners in scoring position-remain 25 percentage points ahead of Rutgers (16-3) in the race for the BIG EAST regular-season title. Prior to Saturday’s second game, the Irish had won 28 straight games when scoring five-plus runs and are now 29-2 when scoring five-plus runs this season.
Junior righthander Alex Shilliday (9-3) tossed a complete game in the opener, allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks, with three strikeouts. Shilliday is 10-1 vs. BIG EAST teams over the past two seasons and has won 15 of his last 19 decisions with the Irish.
Junior righthander Brad Lidge had no decision in the nightcap, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits, three walks, a hit batter and an untimely balk over the first six innings, with six K’s. Freshman righthander Aaron Heilman (4-1) took the loss while seeing his shutout streak end at 33 and one-thirds innings over 19 appearances. Heilman allowed four earned runs on six hits and three walks over four innings, with just one strikeout.
West Virginia (34-13-1, 11-7) overcame two four-run deficits while lowering its “magic number” to 1 for clinching a spot in the six-team BIG EAST Tournament. Senior lefthander Garrett Zyskowski tossed six-plus innings in the opener, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks with six K’s. Zyskowski left the game after surrendering Alec Porzel’s leadoff home run and a single by Dan Leatherman while junior righthander Jeremy Cummings (4-1) took the loss, letting in Zyskowski’s final two runs before yielding the game-winner.
Cummings also started the nightcap, allowing eight runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks over five and two-thirds, before junior righthander Dan Cisneros (2-2) came on for the win. Cisneros allowed an unearned run on two hits and three walks over three and two-thirds before junior lefthander Louie Ross induced J.J. Brock into a game-ending double play for his fourth save.
Notre Dame and WVU have met 10 times since joining the BIG EAST in 1996, producing two 1-run games, four 2-run games and three 3-run games during that stretch (WVU has won seven of the 10).
In other BIG EAST action Saturday, Rutgers (16-3) swept 9th-place Georgetown (7-5, 8-2) while 3rd-place St. John’s (12-5) split at home with 5th-place Providence (13-8-1), by scores of 6-5 and 3-6. 6th-place Seton Hall (11-8) was rained out at 10th-place Pittsburgh and 7th-place Connecticut (10-11) saw its postseason chances dwindle with an 8-5 loss at 11th-place Boston College. St. John’s and PC have now clinched spots in the BIG EAST Tournament while WVU and SHU have lowered their magic numbers to 1.
Notre Dame has clinched a top-four finish in the BIG EAST, with a magic number of 1 to finish ahead of WVU and 2 to finish in front of St. John’s.
Porzel ignited the winning rally with his seventh home run, an opposite-field shot over the rightfield fence. Leatherman then sent a first-pitch single to center before Frye attempted a sacrifice bunt. Cummings bobbled the ball and threw to first. but first baseman Jim Kavourias muffed the throw and Mike Knecht then plated the tying win with a first-pitch groundout to Kavourias.
Cummings issued an intentional walk to Allen Greene, loading the bases, before Brock hit a short bouncer to the left side. Third baseman Kevin Olkowski charged the ball but had no time to stop pinch-runner Ben Cooke from sliding home with the game-winner.
The visitors broke a 1-1 tie in the opener with two runs in the fifth, on Lance Williams’ hit-and-run single through the left side and Olkowski’s RBI groundout. The Irish had struck first with a two-out rally in the third, with Brock drawing a walk and moving to third on Jeff Felker’s opposite-field double before scoring on a wild pitch. WVU tied the game in the fourth, after singles by McNamee and Elwood and Abe Barker’s RBI groundout.
WVU’s winning rally in the second game included a hard-hit leadoff single to first base by Jamie Hammond and Williams’ one-out single to left. The runners moved up on Olkowski’s groundout before McNamee delivered his opposite-field linedrive to right.
Notre Dame jumped ahead 4-0 in the nightcap behind Greene’s leadoff walk, Felker’s RBI double and a single by Jeff Wagner before Brant Ust drilled his 17th home run of the season, an opposite-field shot to right-center. WVU then scored twice in the second and the Irish scored once in the fourth before WVU used a run in the fifth and two in the sixth to forge a 5-5 tie, with Hammond’s two-out, two-run single tying the game after Lidge’s balk had moved Barker into scoring position.
Notre Dame surged to a second four-run cushion in the bottom of the sixth, with all the runs coming unearned after catcher Brad Elwood’s errant throw on Mike Knecht’s sacrifice bunt. Brock’s sacrifice fly plated Todd Frye before Wagner sent a booming home run over the leftfield fence, scoring Felker and Knecht for Wagner’s 13th home run of the season and the record 40th of his career.
WVU quickly tied the game in the seventh, with Olkowski ending Lidge’s day on a two-run shot to left, just his second home run of the season. Heilman then walked McNamee and gave up a single to Elwood and sacrifice bunt by Barker before Jason Weightman smacked a game-tying, two-run single to center.
WEST VIRGINIA 0-0-0 1-2-0 0 3 8 1NOTRE DAME 0-0-1 0-0-0 3 4 7 1Zyskowski, Cummings (7) and Elwood. Shilliday and Knecht.
WEST VIRGINIA (34-13-1, 11-7 BIG EAST) 0-2-0 0-1-2 4-0-0 2 11 16 2NOTRE DAME (36-13, 13-2 BIG EAST) 4-0-0 1-0-4 0-0-0 0 9 11 1Cummings, Cisneros (6), Ross (10) and Elwood. Lidge, Heilman (7) and Knecht.