May 5, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Several major streaks came to an end on Sunday at Frank Eck Stadium, as Rutgers avoided a series sweep by taking the third game of the weekend in convincing fashion, 11-0, representing the Notre Dame baseball program’s first shutout loss since early in the 1999 season.
Notre Dame (34-13, 13-7 BIG EAST) – which also saw its 16-game winning streak come to an end, two shy of matching the team record – slipped back into a tie with idle Boston College for second place in the BIG EAST standings, with Virginia Tech (14-6) claiming the top spot after finishing a three-game sweep of Connecticut.
The Irish offense managed just two hits and nine total baserunners while a season-high seven errors helped produce four unearned runs for the visitors.
Rutgers (29-18, 14-9) – which had lost its previous eight games vs. the Irish – remained fourth in the BIG EAST standings but the Scarlet Knights are tied in the loss column with hard-charging Pittsburgh (11-9), which now owns fifth place after completing a sweep of Georgetown. UConn (12-10) dropped into sixth place and may need a sweep at Pittsburgh in the final week of the season in order to secure one of the four BIG EAST Tournament spots.
Senior righthander Tom Wheeler – who was roughed up in a 2001 loss to the Irish (8 runs on 6 hits and 5 walks in 6.1 innings) – nearly registered the complete game. The 6-3, 205-pound veteran improved to 8-2 while allowing just two hits and three walks in his 8 1/3 innings, with nine Ks over the 120-pitch outing.
Notre Dame – ranked as high as 19th in the national polls – almost averted the rare shutout by loading the bases in the ninth, but Brian Winters induced the game-ending groundball to halt the team-record scoring streak at 230 games, dating back to the fourth game of the current senior’s careers (a 12-0 loss at Florida International, on Feb. 21, 1999).
Junior righthander Peter Ogilvie (5-2) lost for just the third time in 13 career decisions with the Irish, after pitching two-plus innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks.
Rutgers junior centerfielder Mike Cerulo was shifted from the No. 9 hole into the leadoff spot and responded by hitting 3-for-5 and scoring three runs. Senior first baseman Steve Norman and freshman second baseman Cory Rodriguez both chipped in three RBI for the Knights.
Notre Dame’s top four hitters in the lineup did not register a hit (in 12 combined at-bats) while the Irish failed in the area of RBI efficiency for the first time in three weeks, with eight baserunners left stranded (the previous 11 games saw ND total 93 runs and just 74 left on base).
Ogilvie hit Ryan Lillis with a full-count pitch to open the third inning before Rodriguez drove an 0-1 offering over the leftfield fence, the first home run served up by Ogilvie in nearly 100 career innings of work with the Irish. A five-run fourth inning then pushed RU’s lead to 9-0.
NOTES: The Irish were bidding to become just the third ND team – and second in 95 years – to win 17 consecutive games (the ’91 team won 18 in a row while the 1907 team had a 17-game streak) … ND has been shut out just six times in the eight-year Paul Mainieri era, with RU responsible for two of them (also a 12-0 game in the 1998 BIG EAST Tournament) … sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann saw his 10-game hitting streak come to an end (that matched his career-best, also March 25-April 7 of 2001) … senior CF Steve Stanley (0-for-4) went hitless for just the sixth time this season while striking out for just the seventh time in 219 plate appearances … the visiting team still holds the edge in the ND-RU series (10-7) and the home team has yet to sweep in six all-time ND-RU series (the ’98 series was rained out, with ND holding an overall 12-8 series edge, including 2-1 at the BIG EAST Tournament) … senior C Paul O’Toole now is tied for 7th in the ND record book for career games played (219, also Cory Mee ’92) … Stanley’s 235 games played are tied with Mike Coss (’91) for 4th in ND history.
THE BIG EAST RACE: Next weekend’s key BIG EAST action includes: ND vs. 8th-place Villanova (9-10), at FDR Park in downtown Philadelphia; a showdown in Blacksburg between BC and Virginia Tech; and 10th-place WVU (8-12) at Pittsburgh (RU and UConn have byes) … the final weekend of play will feature BC at ND, WVU at VT, RU at 7th-place St. John’s (10-10) and UConn at Pitt. … ND owns head-to-head tiebreakers vs. VT and RU (TBD vs. BC) but would lose a tie with UConn (a tie between ND and Pitt would revert to the next criteria, record vs. top teams in the standings, in descending order until the tie is broken).
Rutgers 1-0-3 5-1-1 0-0-0 – 11 11 2
#19 Notre Dame 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-X – 0 2 7
Tom Wheeler (W, 8-2), Brian Winters (9) and Mike Popowski.
Peter Ogilvie (L, 5-2), Ryan Kalita (3), Matt Buchmeier (4), J.P. Gagne (5) and Paul O’Toole.
Home Runs: Cory Rodriguez, RU (1 on in 3rd; 1st of season); Val Mejewski (solo in 6th; 9th of season).
Triple: Mike Cerulo (RU).
Doubles: Tim Sweeney (RU), Ryan Lillis RU).