Mar. 9, 1997

Irish Rally in Ninth for Victory

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Sophomore leftfielder Allen Greene (Seattle, Wash) tied the game with a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth and senior second baseman J.J. Brock (Colorado Springs, Colo.) singled Greene home moments later as the Notre Dame baseball team scored five times in the final inning to complete a stunning 5-4 comeback over Texas-Pan American, Sunday night at Wolff Municipal Stadium.

The Irish comeback denied UTPA coach Al Ogletree his 1,200 career victory but the veteran coach could get another shot at the milestone in a scheduled doubleheader Monday against Notre Dame. The veteran Ogletree, now in his 41st overall season and 29th at UTPA, leads all active Division I coaches with 1,199 career victories (699 losses).

Notre Dame (5-4) headed into the bottom of the ninth inning staring a 4-0 deficit after being unable to solve freshman righthander Omar Ortiz, who limited the Irish to three hits through the first eight innings, with just one Notre Dame baserunner reaching second base.

The loss dropped UPTA to 12-10.

Senior righthander Mike Balicki (Santa Margarita, Calif.) picked up the victory and his first decision of the season, allowing just one hit and no walks over the final three innings, with one strikeout. Another senior, lefthander Gregg Henebry (Clifton, Mass.), allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and one walk through the first six innings with five K's.

The rally helped the Irish avet their first scoreless game in the three-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri (132 games). Freshman third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) started things off with a one-out single to center field (the third hit of the game for the highly touted rookie). Senior catcher Mike Amrhein (Oak Park, Ill.) then picked up his first hit of the night, working to a 3-0 count and taking a ball before slapping a single into left field.

Sophomore DH Jeff Wagner (Louisville, Ky.) also got ahead in the count vs Ortiz 2-0, before ripping a shot off Broncs third baseman T.D. Taylor, with Ust scoring as the ball rolled into left field, Amrhein holding at third and Wagner rolling into second with a double.

Freshman first baseman Jeff Felker (Ellicott City, MD) then plated Amrhein and advanced Wagner on a groundout to Taylor, cutting the lead to 4-2. With two outs, the Irish next turned to their unlikeliest of heroes, junior walkon Dan Leatherman (Orland Hills, ILL.), who had entered the game in the second inning as a replacement for senior Justin Scholl. Leatherman - a tranfer from St. Xavier College who saw his first Divsion I action in Saturday's loss to Penn State - took a strike before sending a dipping shot to left field. UTPA's Jeff Moore made a break on the ball and dived forward to attempt to catch the ball, but ball squirted out of his glove as hit the ground, with Wagner scoring on the play to cut the lead to 4-3.

The Broncs finally lifted the tiring Ortiz in favor of senior righthander and eventual loser Richard Crenshaw (0-1). With senior Pat O'keefe (Grand Lodge, Mich) pinch-running at first base, the bounces continued to go the way of the down-to-their-last-out Irish. Greene took a pitch inside and then popped the ball into foul territory behind third base. Taylor was running onto the ball near the waist-high fence but appeared to misjudge the ball, as it bounced off his chest and fell harmlessly away just as Taylor collided with the side-fencing.

Instead of being out of the game with a save, Crenshaw then uncorked a wild pitch, moving O'Keefe to second base. Greene then laid off a pitch that was high and outside before ripping a foul ball into the leftfield bleachers. Facing a full count, Greene lined a shot into right, with the speedy O'Keefe beating the throw from Matt Peters to tie the game at 4-4.

The Broncs went to yet another senior righthander, Richard Navarro, but Brock drove a shot through the right side of the infield. Second baseman Matt Tosch ranged to his left, but could not make the play and Greene, who had moved up to second on Peters' earlier throw, scurried home with the game-winning run.

Ust's 3-for-4 day extended his hitting streak to seven games and moved the impressive freshman atop the Irish charts with a .485 season batting average (16-for-33) just edging ahead of Amrhein (who is 16-for-34). In his last six games, Ust has five multiple hit games while collecting hits in 14 of his last 21 at-bats.

Balicki - who had solid outings in his earlier appearances this season vs. USC and Southwest Texas - had allowed just one run, two walks and three hits in seven and one-thirds innings this season.

Notre Dame's trio of newcomers - Ust, Felker and Leatherman - combined for five of Notre Dame's nine hits, while scoring one run and driving in two others. Freshman Jeff Perconte (Arlington Heights, Ill.) started at shortstop in place of sophomore Paul Turco.

The Broncs took a 1-0 lead in the third, after Moore's one out triple and a RBI single from Matt Siskowski. UTPA added to its lead in the fifth, with Sam Price reaching first base to lead off the inning, after Ust was handcuffed on a hard bouncer down the line. Price then moved up on a balk and wild pitch before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Jeff Pool. UTPA pushed across two more runs in the sixth, with Sinkowski and Steve Redden doubling to open the inning before Taylor added a run-scoring single to left field.

Texas-Pan American   001  012  000  --  4  8  1
Notre Dame           000  000  005  --  5  9  2
Ortiz, Crenshaw (9), Navarro (9) and Phillips.
Henebry, Balicki (7) and Amrhein. 2B - Siskowski
(UTPA) Redden (UTPA), Wagner (ND). 3B - Moore
(UTPA). WP - Balicki (1-0). LP - Crenshaw (0-1).

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