April 11, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Paul O’Toole and Steve Stanley both flirted with hitting for the cycle as the Notre Dame baseball team bounced back from a tough 7-5 loss to run away with the nightcap, 12-2, in BIG EAST Conference doubleheader action Thursday afternoon at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (19-12, 6-6 BIG EAST) broke open a 2-2 deadlock in the second game with a seven-run sixth inning to make a winner of junior righthander J.P. Gagne (3-3), who had entered the game in the top of the inning after freshman John Axford had logged five solid innings.
The Irish stayed in the thick of the BIG EAST standings, with Friday’s opponent Virginia Tech and Connecticut currently sharing first place with 7-3 records (the final BIG EAST standings are based solely on winning percentage, not on the traditional “games back,” due to the possibility of games being lost to rain or ending in ties).
Pittsburgh (21-8-1, 4-5) faced a 4-0 deficit in the seven-inning opener before erupting for six runs in the top of the sixth. Junior lefthander Eric Ackerman (5-0) stayed unbeaten after yielding five runs on 12 hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings, with three strikeouts.
Notre Dame stranded 11 baserunners in the opener, including nine who were left in scoring position. Freshman righthander Grant Johnson (2-4) was the hard-luck loser, after racking up nine Ks in 5 2/3 innings while allowing five runs on seven hits and five walks. Johnson’s first three innings included striking out seven of the first 13 batters he faced.
Axford’s no-decision included six strikeouts in five innings, with two runs allowed (one earned) on four hits and two walks.
Fifth-year senior Scott Schultz – making his sixth career appearance versus Notre Dame – took the loss in game two, allowing six runs on seven hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings.
Stanley and O’Toole both hit 5-for-8 in the doubleheader, with Stanley pushing his season batting average to .460 (.500 in BIG EAST games) while O’Toole now is batting .467 in BIG EAST action (.315 overall).
O’Toole doubled in the opener before adding a two-run home run, a triple and an RBI double in his first three at-bats of the nightcap. He later opened the bottom of the eighth by sending an 0-1 pitch down the rightfield line for his third double of the day.
Stanley – who has hit safely in 29 of 31 games this season, with just three strikeouts – hit 2-for-4 in the opener before adding a leadoff double, a single and a three-run blast in the sixth (the second home run of his career), on a first-pitch offering from sophomore righthander Jeff Barnyak. His chance at the rare cycle ended in the seventh, when Stanley earned his 14th walk of the season.
Stanley also moved into second place on the BIG EAST lists for career hits (133) and runs scored (90, with three Thursday) in regular-season BIG EAST games. The records are held by former Rutgers teammates Darren Fenster (138 hits) and David DeJesus (93 runs).
The big hits in Notre Dame’s seven-run sixth inning included O’Toole’s double, a two-run double from junior DH Mike Holba (making his first career start in a BIG EAST game) and Stanley’s three-run shot over the fence in right-center field.
Notre Dame had its chances to rally in the opener, after Ken Meyer’s sixth-inning home run cut the deficit to 6-5 and junior leftfielder Brian Stavisky added a two-run double. Junior righthander P.J. Hiser then took the mound and walked pinch-hitter Matt Bok on four pitchers before inducing a popup from O’Toole to end the threat. After Pittsburgh stretched to 7-5, the Irish then had runners on second and third in the seventh but Riser escaped for his third save of the season.
Pittsburgh’s six-run rally in the sixth began when Bryan Spamer sent a 2-2 pitch through the right side of the infield, followed by Rolando Bello’s second home run of the season (on a 1-1 pitch, to right field). Stuart Rycaseski then dropped a full-count single into left field, Tony Railing drew a two-out walk and Michael Bell placed an RBI single down the leftfield line for a 4-3 game. Senior Matt Buchmeier took the mound in relief of Johnson but Brant Colamarino pulled a 2-0 pitch inside the rightfield foul pole to cap the big inning with a three-run blast.
NOTES: Stavisky smacked a solo home run in the opener, his fourth of the season and 28th of his career (tied for 9th in ND history) … Stanley’s three runs give him 206 for his career, moving past Craig Counsell (204, ’89-’92) and Eric Danapilis (205, ’90-’93) into 3rd at ND, behind Pat Pesavento (246, ’86-’89) and Greg Layson (219, ’91-’94) … Stanley’s ratio of 42.0 at-bats per K this season (126/3) would rank 2nd in the ND record book (since ’69), just behind Rick Pullano’s 44.0 in 1978 (132/3) … O’Toole hit the 26th home run and 10th triple of his career, joining Stavisky (28/11), Alec Porzel (37/12, ’98-’01) and Ryan Topham (34/13, ’93-’95) as the only ND players ever to record the offensive versatility of 25-plus home runs and 10-plus triples …O’Toole now owns a .432 career batting avg. vs. Pittsburgh (19-for-44, 17 RBI, 13 R, 3 BB), with a n .886 slugging pct. (4 HR-3B-6 2B).
PITTSBURGH 0-0-0 0-0-6 1 – 7 11 0
NOTRE DAME 2-0-0 0-2-1 0 – 5 12 0
Eric Ackerman (W, 5-0), P.J. Hiser (6, SV, 3) and Mike Zambriczki.
Grant Johnson (L, 2-4), Matt Buchmeier (6) and Paul O’Toole.
Home Runs: Brian Stavisky, ND (solo in 5th, 4th of season, 28th of career), Rolando Bello, Pitt (1 on in 6th, 2nd of season), Brant Colamarino, Pitt (2 on in 6th, 11th of season), Ken Meyer, ND (solo in 6th, 2nd of season, 9th of career).
Doubles: O’Toole (ND), Andrew Bushey (ND), Stavisky (ND), Michael Bell (Pitt), Bello (Pitt).
PITTSBURGH 0-1-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 – 2 5 3
NOTRE DAME 2-0-0 0-0-7 3-0-0 – 12 14 2
Scott Schultz (L, 4-3), Jeff Barnyak(6), Jimmy Blue (6), Michael Oehlberg (7) and Rob Beahn.
John Axford, J.P. Gagne (6, W, 3-3), Scott Bickford (8), Matt Laird (9) and Paul O’Toole.
Home Runs: O’Toole, ND (1 on in 1st, 6th of season, 26th of career), Steve Stanley, ND (2 on in 6th, 1st of season, 2nd of career).
Triple: O’Toole (ND).
Doubles: O’Toole (ND), Stanley (ND), Mike Holba (ND), Michael Bell (Pitt), Brant Colamarino (Pitt).