April 15, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. It was yet another variation on a theme for the Notre Dame baseball team Wednesday night, as the Irish posted their 12th come-from-behind victory of the season and their 10th win in the closing innings, after rallying for a 6-3 victory over visiting Cleveland State at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (26-8)which has won five straight, 11 of its last 12 and 22 of the last 24came back from two deficits for the second straight game, with the decisive rally coming in the four-run bottom of the eighth. Junior third baseman Jeff Perconte hustled home with the tying run, somehow eluding the tag from catcher Jim Rickon after Paul OTooles groundball to shortstop Mike Lehman. OToole then stole second base and scored the go-ahead run on a double down the leftfield line by junior All-America shortstop Brant Ust.
Junior righthander John Corbin (5-1) continued his impressive run of quality relief by setting down all six batters he faced over the final two innings, with five strikeouts. Corbinwho also has six saves and a 3.51 ERA in his 14 relief appearancescombined with four other Irish pitchers to post a team season-high 16 strikeouts.
Cleveland State (10-20) staked a 2-0 lead in the second inning and went ahead 3-2 in the seventh, but the Vikings could not hold off the Irish. Sophomore righthander Ryan McClarnon pitched seven strong innings before walking Perconte on four straight pitches in the eighth. Much as he would do moments later at home plate, Perconte somehow eluded the tag for a successful steal of second base and moved up on Steve Stanleys sacrifice bunt.
The Vikings elected to bring on freshman lefthander Mark Ritz (1-2) to face the lefthanded-hitting OToole, whose fielders choice put the go-ahead run on base. Sophomore righthander Ed Marko then took the mound but served up Usts 1-0 double, Jeff Wagners 2-2, RBI single to left field and Matt Nussbaums first-pitch, run-scoring double to center.
Notre Dame started ace sophomore righthander Aaron Heilman in a planned rotation. Heilmanwho totaled four Ks retired the side in the first inning before giving up a two-out, full-count single to left by Adam Miller and Ross Smirnes fourth home run of the season (on a 1-0 shot to right field).
Senior Alex Shilliday tacked on four Ks of his own over the next two innings, including a second inning when he faced a bases-loaded, no-outs jam, after a hit-by-pitch and two hits. But Shilliday beared down, striking out Miller (on a 2-2 count), Smirne and Marty Healy (the last two coming on three straight pitches).
Surging Irish freshman first baseman Matt Strickroth tied the game in the fifth, with his second home run in as many games. Nussbaum led off with a single through the left side of the infield before Strickroth launched the first pitch from McClarnon over the leftfield fence.
Senior lefthander Chris McKeown allowed two hits and a walk during the scoreless fifth and sixth (with one K) before the Vikings went back ahead in the seventh, versus freshman righthander Drew Duff. Healy stroked a leadoff, full-count double to center field and moved up on Clint Lawsons sacrifice bunt before scoring on Matt Smiths double to right-center.
The Vikings nearly went back ahead in the sixth, after Jeff Haase stroke a leadoff single, stole second and motored towards home plate on Millers single up the middle. But the centerfielder Stanley quickly launched a throw home and OToole barely brushed Haase with a last-moment, "snowcone" tag a couple feet up the third-base line.
NOTES: The Irish pitching staff has 285 strikeouts in 288 innings, for an average of 8.91 per nine innings (second-best in team history, behind the 9.89 in 1958) the Irish are on pace to throw 503 Ks over 60 games, which would blow away the record of 456 set last season the Irish pitchers had just one walk Wednesday and have only 111 for the season, for a 2.57 K-to-walk ratio that is ahead of the team record of 2.40 set in 1963 Shillidays four Ks give him 235 in his career, one behind Alan Walania (93) for fourth place on the Irish all-time list Ust extended his hitting streak to 12 games (three shy of equaling his career-best, set in April of 1997) Notre Dame's amazing last-minute magic in 1999 has included: 12 comeback victories, six games when the Irish scored the winning run in the final inning and four other victories where the Irish game-winner was scored in the second-to-last inning the 26 Irish wins have included just two by more than four runs, with seven wins by one run, five by two runs, seven by three runs and five by four runs (the Irish average margin of victory is 3.0) in the last 12 games alone, the Irish have posted six comeback wins (one in the last inning, another in the second-to-last inning)plus three other victories where the winning run came in the final inning Notre Dame is 137-27 (.835) all-time at Eck Stadium, including 108-20 (.844) during the five-year Paul Mainieri era and 64-9 (.877) in the last 73 home games (since late in the 1996 season) ... in BIG EAST Conference action Wednesday: second-place Rutgers (9-4) dropped a 10-5 game at fourth-place Seton Hall (7-6), third-place Pittsburgh (8-5) posted an 11-9 win at eighth-place West Virginia (5-10), Providence (7-6) moved into a share of fifth place with a 9-8 win at ninth-place Boston College (3-7) in 10 innings, fifth-place Villanova (7-6) posted a 16-6 win at home over last-place Georgetown (2-11), and 10th-place Connecticut (4-9) erupted for a 22-11 win at seventh-place St. Johns (6-6).
CLEVELAND STATE 0-2-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 3 8 3
NOTRE DAME 0-0-0 0-2-0 0-4-X 6 7 0
Heilman, Shilliday (3), McKeown (5), Duff (7), Corbin (8) and O'Toole.
McClarnon, Ritz (8), Marko (8) and Rickon.