February 20, 1999
MIAMI, Fla. - The Notre Dame baseball team struggled offensively for the second straight game while No. 23-ranked Florida International produced just enough timely hitting to improve on the best start (11-0) in school history, in a 3-2 victory for the Panthers in the second game of a three-game series with the Irish at University Park.
FIU starting pitcher Raul Garcia (4-0) struck out 11 Irish batters while allowing two runs on three hits over the first seven innings.
Irish junior righthander Scott Cavey took the loss, allowing all three run on five hits over the first four innings, with four strikeouts. Senior lefthander Chris McKeown tossed four shutout innings to keep the game close, with four hits and two walks allowed while recording four Ks.
FIU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, when rightfielder George Otero brought home third baseman Hiram Silfa with a shot over the wall in right-center field. The Golden Panthers added to their lead in the fourth, after double to left-center by leftfielder Joel Hernandez and Silfas RBI single to center.
Notre Dame closed the gap with two runs in the fifth, sparked by the first hit of the year from junior first baseman Jeff Felker, who dropped a single into shallow right field. Freshman catcher Paul OToole, hitting from the left side, then slapped a hit-and-run single to the spot vacated by the FIU shortstop as he went to cover second base, with Felker scampering to third on the play.
Junior rightfielder Jeff Perconte tried to plate Felker with a sacrifice fly but his flyout was hit too shallow to left field. Sophomore second baseman Alec Porzel then delivered the sacrifice fly and OToole broke for second on the throw to home plate, with catcher Jeff Rodriguez launching a throw that rolled all the way to the centerfield fence, allowing OToole to score all the way from first.
McKeown worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning while stranding seen FIU baserunners from the sixth through eighth innings.
Notre Dame did not pull the potential tying runner on base until the ninth inning, when frehsman third baseman Andrew Bushey came up with a two-out single. But FIU closer Steve Kent struck out freshman leftfielder Matt Strickroth for his third save of the season.
The series concludes on Sunday at noon, with Irish head coach and Miami native Paul Mainieri looking for his 500th career victory as a college head coach.
The Irish are expected to send sophomore righthander Aaron Heilman to the mound on Sunday, in what will be the first career start for the player who earned All-American honors as a freshman closer after leading the nation in ERA for the 1998 season (1.61).