March 18, 2000
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Notre Dame baseball team pounded out a season-high 16 hits while plating its most runs of the season en route to a 12-3 victory over Illinois in the final game for the Irish at the Kennel Club Classic, Saturday afternoon at Harmon Stadium.
Notre Dame (12-3) posted a 7-1 record during its week-long stay in Jacksonville and is off to the program’s best start since the 1963 team also opened 12-3.
Nine different players collected hits for the Irish, paced by three hits from senior first baseman Jeff Felker and sophomore third baseman Andrew Bushey. Bushey also had three RBI while Felker scored four runs.
Despite playing without its regular middle infielders for the second straight game, the Irish defense turned three double plays and threw out three baserunners to hold the Illini to just three runs. Junior shortstop Alec Porzel did not play for the second straight game (due to a foot infection) while senior second baseman Jeff Perconte is still recuperating from a shoulder sprain.
The Irish pitching staff turned in yet another solid outing, with freshman righthander J.P. Gagne (2-0) tossing four and one-third innings of shutout relief, allowing four hits and no walks with one strikeout. Sophomore righthander Drew Duff worked the first three innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on eight hits and two walks, with one K.
Illinois junior righthander Jason Anderson (2-1) suffered just the third loss of his career after logging seven innings, giving up eight runs (six earned) on 13 hits while striking out five Irish batters.
Illinois plated the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly in the top half of the first, but Notre Dame-which had only scored one first-inning run all season-scored two on Saturday, sparked by sophomore centerfielder Steve Stanley sharp single through the left side of the infield.
After a fielder’s choice, Felker sent a first-pitch single through the right side before a groundout from sophomore catcher Paul O’Toole moved the runners over. Bushey then hit a grounder to third baseman Craig Marquie, whose misplay allowed freshman rightfielder Brian Stavisky to score an unearned run. Sophomore DH Matt Bok then ripped a first-pitch single through the left side to push the Irish into the lead.
The Illini answered with another run in the second, thanks to two-out singles from Chris Basak and Brady Ballard and Andy Shutzenhofer’s RBI single up the middle. Illinois then reclaimed the lead in the third, after sending six batters to the plate but scoring only one run. D.J. Svihlik opened the inning with a single but was thrown by O’Toole attempting to steal second base. Luke Simmons then drew a two-out walk and went to third on Marquie’s single to centerfield. Jeff Gertz plated the runner with single to right center but O’Toole picked Gertz off first with a snap throw to Felker, leaving the score at 3-2.
Notre Dame took the lead back for good with two runs in the fifth. Felker placed a one-out single over Anderson’s head and O’Toole singled through the left side before Bushey delivered a 2-1 RBI double to the alley in left . Bok’s groundout to the right side brought home O’Toole for a 4-3 Irish lead.
Notre Dame broke open the game with four runs in the seventh and four more in the eighth. Stavisky led off the seventh with a first-pitch single up the middle and scored on Felker’s double off the wall in right. Flyouts by O’Toole and Bushey brought Felker home and Bok then was hit by a pitch. Sophomore leftfielder Matt Strickroth kept things going with a 1-0 double to left-center and freshman second baseman Kris Billmaier capped the big inning with a 202 single through the left side of the infield.
The Irish scored four unearned runs in the eighth inning, versus relievers Vince Heinz and Andy Dickinson. The final flurry included a single to left-center by Stavisky, a dropped fly ball by center fielder Creston Whitaker, a fielding error by reserve shortstop Ryan Lawrence and Bushey’s RBI single up the middle. Sophomore Ken Meyer chipped in a pinch-hit single up the middle and Strickroth was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Billmaier then hit the ball to the third baseman Marquis, whose fielding error prolonged the inning and allowed the last Irish run to score.
Illinois 1-1-1 0-0-0 0-0-0 — 3 12 4
Notre Dame 2-0-0 0-2-0 4-4-x — 12 16 2
Anderson, Heinz (8), Dickinson (8) and Gertz. Duff, Gagne (4), Corbin (8) and O’Toole.