May 21, 1999
TRENTON, N.J. —Seton Hall junior righthander Damon Ponce de Leon (7-1) turned in an impressive complete-game effort and the fourth-seeded Pirates took advantage of five Notre Dame errors en route to an 11-3 victory over the top-seeded Irish, in second-round action Friday afternoon at the BIG EAST Baseball Championship, at Waterfront Park.
The loss drops Notre Dame (42-15) into the loser’s bracket, a spot from which the Irish rallied to reach the championship game in two of the previous three seasons (losing to West Virginia in 1996 and Rutgers last season).
Seton Hall (32-18-1) survived to play another day in the double-elimination tournament, after dropping a 10-9 game to No. 3 seed Providence on Thursday night. The Pirates held early leads Thursday of 2-0 and 3-2, only to see the Irish twice tie the game. But a four-run fifth inning proved to be the difference as the Pirates fought off elimination.
Notre Dame will face the loser of Thursday night’s game between Providence and No. 2 seed Rutgers. That elimination game will be played at 11:00 a.m. eastern time, an hour ahead of schedule due to impending weather concerns. The winner of that game then will face the PC-Rutgers winner on Saturday night at 6:30, with the winner advancing to Sunday’s title game.
Seton Hall will face No. 5 seed St. John’s in an elimination game on Saturday at 2:30. The winner of that game then will play in Sunday’s first game (Sunday’s schedule will depend on whether a team remains with no losses).
Senior righthander Alex Shilliday (4-4) failed to reprise his 1997 complete-game effort vs. SHU, when the Irish beat the Pirates 4-3 in a tournament elimination game. Shilliday was touched for seven runs on nine hits and three walks over four and two-thirds innings, with just one strikeout.
The Irish continued to compete with three regulars playing out of position, due to a knee injury that has forced junior All-American Brant Ust into the DH role. Sophomore Alec Porzel made two errors Thursday in his second collegiate start at shortstop, a spot that Ust occupied for the entire regular season. Porzel’s classmate Ben Cooke has moved from right field to an unfamiliar second base while freshman Matt Strickroth made an error Thursday as the rightfielder (where he started just five times during the regular season).
Porzel equaled a BIG EAST tournament record by hitting his third home run of the championship but the Irish managed just eight other hits versus Ponce de Leon, who lasted just two and one-third innings in a 17-8 loss to the Irish on April 25. He fared much better the second time around, allowing just two walks while striking out four in a gutsy 131-pitch outing.
Notre Dame continued its first-inning struggles by giving up two early runs. John Bravette and Brian Leighton hit first-inning doubles and Kevin Leighton followed with a two-out RBI single to left field.
The Irish tied the game in the fourth, after Matt Strickroth’s two-out walk and the first career home run for Cooke (in his 201st career at-bat), on a ball that sailed over the rightfield fence.
SHU promptly re-took the lead in the bottom of the fourth, when Bravette singled home Jeff Miler, but the Irish re-tied the game in the top of the fifth on Alec Porzel’s third home run of the tournament, a solo shot over the leftfield fence.
Four hits and two errors led to Seton Hall’s four-run fifth inning, highlighted by Brian McGees RBI single and Bravettes RBI double to left.
The Pirates put the game out of reach in the eighth, when McGee cleared the bases with a double to right-center field.
NOTRE DAME 0-0-0 2-1-0 0-0-0 3 9 5SETON HALL 2-0-0 1-4-0 1-3-0 11 14 2
Alex Shilliday, Mike Naumann (5), Drew Duff (6) and Paul OToole. Damon Ponce de Leon and Alfie Critelli.
NOTRE DAME POSTGAME QUOTES (May 21, 1999)
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI: “We fell behind in the count against a lot of very good hitters and you can’t do that against a good hitting team. … We fell behind early and tried to get back in the game, but we made some errors at some critical parts of the game. We have three guys playing out of position due to the injury to Ust and have a guy playing second base who hasn’t played much there. … Seton Hall took advantage of our mistakes. I think that was the bottom line. … We got off to a bad start and our pitcher wasn’t very sharp like he usually is. I thought we hit some balls hard but right at people early in the game. And they made some nice plays. It just wasn’t our day. The bottom line is that Seton Hall played much better than we did and they deserved to win. … We feel that if we can win that first game tomorrow and come back to win tomorrow night, we have as good a chance to win as anyone.”
ALEC PORZEL: “I didnt know about the home run record. The only thing Ill be excited about is when we win this tournament. … Call me greedy, but I want a (championship) ring. A lot of guys on our team do, too. We’re a little banged up and have some injuries but I dont think anyone on the team is down because of that. … It’s a pride thing with our older players, where we want to prove that we are the best team in the BIG EAST. … With a team like (Seton Hall), they have nothing to lose. They swung the bats and took it right to us today. … We just need to forget about today. Our 42 wins speak for themselves and we can’t let one loss affect our approach to how we play the game of baseball.”