May 13, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Rutgers clinched the BIG EAST Conference regular-season title with a 16-6 victory in the seven-inning opener but the Irish won the 4-3 nightcap on Brian Stavisky’s two-run, game-ending home run-on yet another high-wind afternoon Saturday at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (41-14, 17-7 BIG EAST)-which has won games on walk-off home runs in each of the past three weekends-stayed focus in Saturday’s second game, after a tough opening loss that featured 11 unearned runs for the visitors. The victory moved the Irish back into a tie with Seton Hall (17-7) for second in the BIG EAST standings, after the Pirates had swept a pair of road games from St. John’s earlier in the day (8-0, 6-4).
The 23rd-ranked Irish can clinch the No. 2 seed in the upcoming BIG EAST Tournament by defeating Rutgers on Sunday, while a St. John’s win over SHU on Sunday also would give the Irish the No. 2 seed (ND owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, thanks to an 11-5, 5-1 sweep at SHU on April 20).
Rutgers (35-14, 18-4) broke open the first game with an 11-run sixth inning (all of the runs were unearned). After a throwing error by freshman second baseman Kris Billmaier had helped to extend the inning, the 18th-ranked Knights turned in a stunning two-out rally that included 12 straight baserunners-thanks to seven hits, three walks (two on full counts), a hit batter and a throwing error by freshman righthander Matt Laird.
Freshman righthander J.P. Gagne (7-1) picked up the crucial win in the nightcap, thanks to four innings of near-perfect relief. Gagne faced just 13 batters (one above the minimum), with one walk, one strikeout, eight groundouts (including a double-play ball) and two flyouts. He is one win shy of becoming the first Irish freshman to post eight-plus wins since 1990, when Pat Leahy went 8-1 and David Sinnes set the ND freshman record for wins with a 9-2 season.
Junior righthander Aaron Heilman (10-2) saw his streak of 10 consecutive winning decisions come to an end in the opener, with rocky innings in the first, fourth and fifth. Heilman totaled six Ks but was touched for eight hits, three walks and nine runs (just five of them earned) in 5.2 innings of work, with two of his earned runs coming on Joe Cirone’s two-out, two-run home run-after Billmaier’s errant relay throw on a potential inning-ending double play.
Rutgers freshman righthander Bob Brownlie and junior lefthander Buddy Gallagher both turned in complete games, with Brownlie allowing just three hits and one run over the first six innings before yielding five hits, two home runs and five runs in the seventh and final inning. Brownlie (7-1) did not walk a batter while posting two strikeouts and nine groundouts in his 94-pitch outing.
Gallagher (4-2) was the hard-luck loser in the nightcap, scattering seven hits and four walks over the four-plus innings while posting five Ks and logging 127 pitches.
Irish senior righthander Scott Cavey tossed five-plus innings in the second game, allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks while posting two Ks.
GAME 2 RECAP
- Billmaier led off the bottom of the 9th with a full-count walk, after fouling off the first pitch and swinging past the second one (he then laid off four straight pitches) … Gallagher’s next pitch settled in for a called strike but Stavisky jumped all over the next offering and drilled the ball over the fence in deep right-center field for his team-leading 14th home run of the season (he has homered in four straight BIG EAST series and has six HRs in the last 15 games).
- RU manufactured a run in the 2nd, after Todd Speedy’s full-count, leadoff walk and stolen base, Cirone’s bunt single on a sacrifice attempt and Mike O’Brien’s one-out single to right field.
- ND answered with two runs in the bottom of the 2nd, sparked by Jeff Felker’s walk and Billmaier’s single down the RF line … Stavisky then collected his first of three RBI in the game, sending a 1-2 pitch down the RF line for a run-scoring double (Gallagher’s two-out wild pitch plated the go-ahead run).
- The Knights quickly tied the game in the 3rd, with David DeJesus hitting a leadoff blooper to left-center before moving up on a stolen base and Jake Daubert’s flyball to center … Cavey then issued a full-count walk to Speedy and uncorked a wild pitch that allowed DeJesus to score.
- RU claimed a 3-2 lead with a run in the 6th-but it could have been much worse … light-hitting Val Majewski took advantage of a wind that was whipping to RF throughout the afternoon, as the lefthander led off the 6th by sending a 1-2 pitch off the RF foul-pole screen for just his 3rd home run of the season … walks by O’Brien and Mike Popowski ended Cavey’s day and Matt Wolski bunted the runners over, but Gagne forced DeJesus to popup and walked Darren Fenster before inducing Daubert into a rally-ending ground ball.
GAME 1 NOTES
- Daubert’s double to left and Speedy’s single down the LF line gave RU an early lead but Heilman struck out O’Brien on a 2-2 pitch to leave the bases loaded in the 1st … ND tied the game in the 4th, after Ken Meyer’s leadoff double, Steve Stanley’s sac. bunt and Porzel’s flyball to right … RU pushed to a 5-1 lead in the 5th, with the big hits coming on Daubert’s two-run single to LC and Cirone’s two-out blast (his 7th of the season).
- RU’s big two-out rally in the 6th included two-run singles from Cirone (through the left side), O’Brien (to left) and Wolski (to center) … the Irish finally cashed in on the gusty conditions in the 7th, with Paul O’Toole cracking a three-run shot to right (his 6th HR of the season) while Jeff Perconte’s pinch-hit appearance resulted in a solo shot to right (his 1st HR of the season and 6th of his career).
AROUND THE BIG EAST: Idle UConn (14-9) will be the No. 4 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament while Boston College (12-10) is locked into the 5th seed, after splitting Saturday at Pittsburgh (8-6 loss, 9-4 win) … West Virginia (10-12) completed a sweep of Villanova (4-0) and will claim the 6th and final playoff spot if Pitt (10-13) loses on Sunday to BC … ND will open the tournament on Wed., May 17, vs. either BC or UConn.
NOTES: The last three weekends have seen three different ND players hit game-ending HRs (Felker vs. St. John’s, Porzel vs. Pitt) … the ND and RU regular-season series has yet to produce back-to-back wins for either team, with RU’s pair of wins at the ’98 BIG EAST Tournament yielding a 7-5 series edge … 11 of the 12 games in the series have produced either very close games (seven decided by 1-2 runs) or blowouts (four by nine-plus) … the Irish have played 33 straight BIG EAST doubleheaders without being swept (since a series at SHU in early ’97) and have been swept just twice in 42 all-time BIG EAST doubleheaders (also by WVU in ’96) … Heilman also took the loss in the 7-6 loss to RU at the ’98 BET (he is 0-2 vs. RU but 28-4 vs. all other teams) … Heilman actually owns a better career record in away games (15-2) than at Eck Stadium (13-5) … Porzel hit just 1-for-5 in the DH, matching his career avg. vs. RU (now 4-for-20) … Stanley’s 16-game hitting streak was snapped in the opener (0-for-3) … the Irish improved to 8-1 in one-run games this season … the comeback win ensures that Rutgers will not equal the ’99 ND team for most BIG EAST wins in a season (the ’99 Irish went 20-5) … O’Toole’s 14 career home runs include six in 23 games during the month of May … Felker moved into a tie with former ND assistant coach Cory Mee for 4th on the ND career games played list (219) and ranks 5th in career games started (211), two behind ’97 grad. Mike Amrhein … Felker’s double in the opener was his 55th career 2B, ranking 4th in ND history and three shy of Amrhein’s 58 … Felker also now is tied with Craig Counsell (’89-’92) for 9th in career hits (235) … ND has homered in seven straight games and has totaled 23 HRs in the last 15 games … Heilman’s 108 Ks in 2000 ranks 2nd in the ND record book, behind his 118 in ’99 (his 304 career Ks are 11 shy of the ND career record, set by Sinnes) … Stavisky-who now owns three more HRs than any previous ND freshmen-is the 10th ND player to hit 14-plus HRs in a season (Brant Ust did it twice, with 18 in ’98 and 17 in ’99) … Porzel’s eight sacrifice flies are one shy of Robbie Kent’s ND season record (’94) … Stanley pushed his season SB total to 26, tying Scott Sollmann’s ’94 total for 7th in ND history (Stanley’s 11 sacrifice bunts are tied for 8th) … a win on Sunday would yield the 2nd-most regular-season victories ever posted by an ND team (the ’90 squad went 44-10 while the Irish won 41 regular-season games in ’89, ’91, ’92 and ’99) … the final week of the regular season continues to be a challenge for ND, as the Irish are just 3-5 in final-weekend games during the past three seasons.
Brownlie and Ulrich. Heilman, Laird (6), O’Hagan (7) and O’Toole.
Gallagher and Popowski, Ulrich (9). Cavey, Gagne (6) and Nussbaum.