Mar. 27, 1997

Brooks Ties Irish Record With Five Hits In 14-9 Win Over Central Michigan

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Senior centerfielder Randall Brooks (Hazelcrest, Ill.) tied a Notre Dame record with five hits and sophomore designated hitter Jeff Wagner (Louisville, Ky.) belted two home runs while coming up one shy of equaling the Irish single game RBI record, as the rejuvenated Notre Dame offense rapped out 19 hits en route to a 14-9 victory over visiting Central Michigan, in non-conference baseball action Thursday at Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame (12-11)–which had 20 hits on Tuesday vs. Western Michigan–allowed three unearned runs in the first inning before ultimately breaking the game open with four runs in the sixth and five in the seventh. Senior righthander Mike Balicki (Santa Margarita, Calif.) improved to 3-0 while picking up his second win in three days. Balicki relieved fellow senior righthander Wally Widelski (South Holland, Ill.) in the top of the fifth, with the score 4-4, two outs and a runner on third. Balicki forced hot-hitting Greg Jones to ground out to the mound, keeping the game tied, before retiring the side in the sixth to pick up the victory.

Brooks–who also extended his hitting streak to 12 games–is the ninth Notre Dame player to collect five hits in a game (in recorded history) and is the second Irish player to do so in the last eight days. Sophomore leftfielder Allen Greene (Seattle, Wash.) came up with five hits on Feb. 27 vs. IUPUI.

The Irish have had two five-hit performances in the same season just once previously, since Tim Prister–current editor of Blue and Gold magazine–became the first known Irish player to collect five hits in a game (on March 16, 1982). Dan Peltier had five hits vs. Detroit on May 18, 1989 and his teammate Joe Binkiewicz followed suit just two days later, when he collected five hits against Dayton.

The Irish dominated the game from the #2-#4 spots in the lineup, with Brooks going 5-for-6 with three runs and three RBI in the #2 hole, senior catcher Mike Amrhein (Oak Park, Ill.) extending his hitting streak to 18 games on a 4-for-4 day, and cleanup hitter Wagner batting 4-for-5 while collecting six RBI. The Irish record for RBI in a game in seven (done five times), most recently by Ryan Topham vs. Illinois in 1995.

Junior lefthander Kevin Smoot (1-2) took the loss, in relief of sophomore righthander Dan Schell. Smoot came on to record the final out of the fourth and gave up the go-ahead run (5-4) in the fifth before allowing four consecutive hits to open the sixth (each of which came around to score).

Central Michigan (8-4) struck for three unearned runs in the first, thanks to two errors and a passed ball, but the Irish answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Amrhein got things going with a two-out single before Wagner blasted a home run over the leftfield fence. It was the first home run for the 1996 BIG EAST rookie of the year since his opening homer of the season, on Feb. 27 vs. Army.

Both teams scored a run in the third—the Irish doing so on opening singles from Brooks, Amrhein and Wagner–before the hosts added single runs in the fourth and fifth. Senior third baseman J.J. Brock (Colorado Springs, Colo.) hit a one-out single in the fourth and stole second before scoring to tie the game, 4-4, on Brooks’ two-out single to left. Freshman second baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) hit a leadoff double in the fifth and moved up on Greene’s sacrifice bunt before scoring on a single by senior first baseman Justin Scholl (Athens, Ohio).

The Irish chased Smoot from the game in the sixth, opening the half of the inning with four straight hits. Senior rightfielder Pat O’Keefe (Grand Ledge, Mich.)–who played at CMU for two seasons before transferring to Notre Dame last year–led off with a single to right before Brooks added a single to center. The righthanded-hitting Amrhein then sent a patented RBI shot to the opposite field, with Brooks moving to third, before Wagner unloaded an RBI double over the head of leftfielder Brian Tyo. Ust added a sacrifice fly vs. lefthander Brent Miller and Greene was hit by a pitch before Scholl’s sac. fly brought home Wagner for a 9-4 Irish lead.

The Chippewas cut into the lead with two runs in the seventh vs. freshman righthander Steve Szczepanski (Lombard, Ill.)–who was making his first appearance of the season. But the Irish thundered back with five more runs, ignited by Brock’s leadoff single and an error by Miller on O’Keefe’s attempted sacrifice bunt. Brooks then cleared the bases with a two-run triple to right before Amrhein’s RBI single to center ended Miller’s brief appearance.

Wagner then left little doubt on a pitch from righthander Eric Kipling, driving the ball over the leftfield fence for an 11-6 advantage.

CMU scored once in the eighth and then made things interesting vs. freshman righthander Scott Cavey (Omaha, Neb.). The Chippewas pushed across two runs in their final at-bat, cutting the lead to 14-9, and had the bases loaded after a walk by pinch hitter Steve Taylor. But Cavey forced Todd Burke into a game-ending groundout.

Amrhein now has hits in 22 of 23 games this season while raising his batting average to .471. Brooks’ four-hit effort marked his first game with more than two hits this season.

Notre Dame 14, Central Michigan 9

Central Michigan (8-4)  301  000  212  -  9  12  2Notre Dame  (12-11)     201  114  50x  - 14  19  3

CM: Dan Schell, Kevin Smoot (4), Brent Miller (5), Eric Kipling (6); ND: Wally Widelski, Mike Balicki (5), Steve Szczepanski (6), Scott Cavey (8). 2B: Greg Jones (2, CM), Jeff Wagner (ND), Brant Ust (ND), Justin Scholl (ND). 3B: Brian Tyo (CM), Randall Brooks (ND). HR: Jeff Wagner (2, ND).WP: Mike Balicki (3-0), LP: Smoot (1-2).