April 20, 2002
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – Senior catcher Paul O’Toole continued his recent offensive barrage by hitting two more home runs – including his second grand slam in as many games – while freshman righthander John Axford had a solid showing in his longest outing of the season, as the Notre Dame baseball team picked up an important BIG EAST Conference victory, 9-4, at Seton Hall in soggy Saturday-afternoon action at Carroll Field.
The teams were slated to play a doubleheader but were limited to one game due to a lengthy rain delay that pushed the noon start back to 2:50. The three-game series now is scheduled to conclude with a Sunday doubleheader, at 11:00 a.m. EDT (10:00 in South Bend), one hour earlier than the original schedule for the single game.
Notre Dame (25-12, 9-6 BIG EAST) – which posted its seventh consecutive victory and 16th in the last 18 games – moved up in the BIG EAST standings, with the Irish now sitting just one game behind frontrunner Boston College (11-5) in the loss column, after the Eagles split versus Villanova. Rutgers and Virginia Tech both improved to 10-6 with two-game sweeps on Saturday while St. John’s dropped to 9-7 with a split at 7-7 Connecticut.
Five teams – Notre Dame, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, St. John’s and Seton Hall – entered the day tied for second place, with the Pirates dropping to 8-7 (19-18 overall).
O’Toole – who is batting just .305 overall but .421 in BIG EAST play – tied the game with a solo shot in the second inning before breaking things open with his bases-loaded blast in the seventh, giving the Irish a 7-1 cushion. O’Toole’s nine home runs this season are a career-best and push his four-year total to 29, tying Eric Danapilis (’93) for eighth in Notre Dame history.
Axford (4-2) faced just one batter over the minimum (24) in his 7 2/3 innings, thanks to four double-play balls and a runner caught stealing by O’Toole. Axford was credited for four runs after yielding six hits and six walks, with his 121-pitch outing including seven strikeouts, 12 groundball outs, two popups and just one flyout.
A bases-loaded walk from Axford pushed across SHU’s second run of the game in the eighth and junior righthander J.P. Gagne then gave up a two-run double before ending the threat and then closing out the ninth for Notre Dame’s ninth win in its last 11 BIG EAST games (after opening 0-4).
Junior righthander Matt Skrypack (3-3) – coming off a shutout win over in-state rival Rutgers – suffered the loss, after allowing seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and four walks over six innings, with five Ks.
Freshman righthander Grant Johnson is slated to start Sunday’s seven-inning game for the Irish while junior righthander Peter Ogilvie is the likely starter in the third game of the series.
Notre Dame 0-1-0 0-1-1 4-1-1 – 9 14 1
Seton Hall 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-3-0 – 4 8 2
John Axford (W, 4-2), J.P. Gagne (8) and Paul O’Toole.
Matt Skrypack (L, 3-3), Mike Santmyer (7), Isaac Pavlik (9) and Lou Santangelo.
Home Runs:Paul O’Toole, ND, 2 (solo in 2nd, grand slam in 7th, 8th and 9th of season, 28th and 29th of career).
Doubles – Todd Crawford (SHU), Lou Santangelo (SHU).