Mar. 15, 1997

Northeastern Illinois Tops Notre Dame 10-5

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Northeastern Illinois freshman righthander Tom Kowalewski held Notre Dame to seven hits over six innings and senior third baseman Matt Dunne’s five RBI included a game-breaking, grand slam home run as the Golden Eagles defeated the Irish, 10-5, in a seven-inning game at Wolff Municipal Stadium.

The game served as a break in the Irish Baseball Classic, with Notre Dame making up one of its two games that were rained out the previous week in Millington, Tenn.

Kowalewski (1-0) kept the Irish from a big inning, scattering seven hits and four walks while striking out three Notre Dame batters. The 5-10, 170-pound utility player was touched for four runs, just two of which were earned.

Northeastern Illinois (5-9) – an NCAA Tournament team last season and the favorite to win its division of the Mid-Continent Conference – spotted the Irish a 1-0 lead before scoring three times in the second, once in the third and five times in the fourth.

Sophomore lefthander Chris McKeown (0-2) took the loss, lasting just two and one-third innings while allowing four runs (all earned) on five hits and a walk (with one K).

The game served as a wakeup call for Notre Dame (8-7), which is scheduled to face Crighton on Saturday night in the championship game of the Irish Baseball Classic.

NEIU broke open the game with a five-run fourth. Mike Mizwicki drew a one-out walk vs. freshman lefthander Mark Lapinskas before Kevin Loukota and John Will singled to load the bases. Dunne then worked to a full count before sending a shot over the leftfield fence and just inside the foul pole, ending Lapinskas’ brief stint and giving the Eagles an 8-1 lead. Brian Hantosh kept the rally going vs. freshman righthander John Corbin, slapping a single into right field, and Dan Vrbancic walked before Bob Kostuch’s groundout moved up the runners. Chris Reehof’s ground to first appeared to end the inning, but Corbin bobbled the throw from junior Dan Leatherman, allowing Hantosh to score.

The Irish tried to rally in the final innings, with Ust connecting on his second home run of the season ( a solo shot to left center in the fifth) and the Irish scoring twice more in the sixth, thanks to two Eagles errors, a walk by sophomore Allen Greene and a bloop infield single by senior Pat O’Keefe.

Both teams added runs in the seventh and final inning. Dunne singled home Mizwicki to pad the Eagles lead before Irish senior Mike Amrhein singled and moved up on a wild pitch and groundout before scoring when leftfielder Hantosh dropped a fly ball of the bat of Leatherman.

Notre Dame opened the scoring in the bottom of the first, after a leadoff double into the rightfield corner by O’Keefe and an RBI single from senior Randall Brooks. But the Eagles answered with three runs in the top of the second, behind consecutive one-out singles from Vrbancic, Kostuch and Reehof, and RBI groundout by Mark Raciti and a run-scoring single from Mizwicki. NEIU added a run in the third, as a walk by Dunne and a single by Hantosh chased McKeown from the game, before Vrbancic walked vs. Lapinskas and Kostuch hit an RBI groundout.

O’Keefe continued his hot-hitting, going 3-for-4 while filling in for injured senior Justin Schol (out the past three-plus games with a ribcage injury). O’Keefe heads into Saturday night’s game with hits in eight of his last 13 at-bats, plus six runs scored and three RBI.

The Irish elected to start Leatherman at first base for the first time this season, in place of freshman Jeff Felker, while freshman Jeff Perconte got the nod at second base, over senior J.J. Brock.

Amrhein’s run gives him 15 for the season and 14 in his career, just two shy of moving into 10th place on the Irish career runs scored list. At that time, he will become the third player among the Irish career top 10 for batting average, hits, RBI, runs, doubles and home runs. The hard-hitting righthander also earlier in the week passed the 200-hit plateau (now at 204).

Score by InningsNortheastern Ill.  031 500 1  -  10  10  3Notre Dame         100 012 1  -   5   8  2

NI: Kowalewski, Hallgren (7) and Raciti. ND: McKeown, Lapinskas (3), Corbin (4), Kalita (4) O’Hagan (5) and Wagner. WP – Kowalewski (1-0). LP – McKeown (0-2). HR – Matt Dunne (2), Brant Ust (2). 2B: Pat O’Keefe (2).