April 25, 1998
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - Sophomore Brant Ust tied three Notre Dame records and one BIG EAST record with one swing, sending his fifth hit ant third home run of the game over the leftfield fence in the ninth innning of the nightcap, as the visiting Irish gained a doubleheader sweep, 4-5 and 11-3 in BIG EAST Conference action Saturday at Caroll Field.
Notre Dame (34-11, 11-1 BIG EAST) saw its 13-game winning streak halted in the opener but used the win in the nightcap to clinch a spot in the six-team BIG EAST Tournament (May 13-16 in Norwich, Conn.) The Irish closed to 5-4 in the fourth innning of the opener but could not plate the equalizer despite putting the leadoff man aboard in each of the final three innings.
Ust - who homered versus three different SHU pitchers - had a hand in seven of the 11 Irish runs in the nightcap while freshman Alec Porzel provided a pivotal fourth-inning two-run double and senior J.J. Brock hit his second home run of the day. Ust is the first Notre Dame player to hit three home runs in a game since Joe Binkiewicz did it twice in a span of 12 days midway through the 1991 season. Ust had a career-high five RBI in the game while equaling the Irish and BIG EAST record for runs in a game (5). Pat Pesavento scored five times in a Notre Dame game versus Pennsylvania on March 10, 1989 while five previous BIG EAST players have scored five runs in a BIG EAST game (first done by Seton Hall's Mo Vaughn vs. Pittsburgh on 3/28/87 and most recently done by UConn's Jeff Uccello vs. Boston College on 4/20/96).
The victory was Notre Dame's 14th come-from-behind win of the season. The Irish have fallen behind in the first inning of eight of their last 25 games but have come back to win each of those contests.
Alex Shilliday (8-3) took the complete-game loss while fellow junior righthander Brad Lidge (7-2) won the nightcap. Freshman pitcher Aaron Heilman recorded his seventh save, extending his shutout streak to 29 and one-third innings over his last 17 appearances.
Shilliday allowed nine hits and four walks, with four strikeouts, while Lidge allowed three runs on six hits and five walks over six innings (three K's). Heilman faced 12 batters over three innings, allowing two hits while recording two strikeouts and seven groundouts. Heilman lowered his season ERA to 1.08, which ranks third in the Irish record book, just behind David Sinnes' NCAA-leading 1990 ERA (1.05).
Seton Hall (23-15, 11-5) remained in fourth place in the BIG EAST, with junior righthander Matt Duignan (5-3) winning the opener while junior lefthander Cameron Esslinger (4-4) lost the nightcap, allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits over the first six innings (eight K's.)
Ust - who went 5-for-3 in the second game while pushing his season home run total to 16 - tied the nightcap (1-1) in the second inning with a first-pitch shot over the leftfield fence. He then won a hard-fought at-bat in the fourth, sending an opposite-field single to right before Porzel delivered his clutch two-out double to left-center for a 3-1 lead. Ust nearly had another home run in the sixth, when he sent a double high off the wall in left-center before scoring on Porzel's sacrifice fly.
Brock sent a seventh-inning pitch from righthanded reliever Paul Viole over the leftfield fence for his 11th homerun of the season and Ust followed suit to lead off the eighth, parking a first-pitch shot over the familiar leftfield fence. Porzel then doubled and scored on Mike Knecht's two-out, opposite-field single to right.
Ust capped the scoring in the ninth, plating Brock and Ben Cooke with a first-pitch home run to left off righthander Mike Wren.
Notre Dame opened the day with a pair of runs, when Allen Greene was hit by a pitch and Brock followed with a blast over the left-center fence. SHU surged ahead with three runs in the second but the Irish tied the game in the third, when Dan Leatherman slapped a leadoff single to left-center before coming around on groundouts by Greene and Brock.
The hosts surged back ahead in the bottom of the third, on Tony Calabrese's two-out two-run home run to left. The Irish followed with a run in the fourth, after a leadoff walk by Jeff Wagner, a single by Ust, Jeff Perconte's deep flyout and Porzel's RBI groundout.
Rutgers (13-3) remains on Notre Dame's heels in the BIG EAST standings, after a 10-5, 17-3 sweep at fifth-place Providence (12-7-1). Other BIG EAST scores: 3rd-place St. John's (10-3) swept at home over 10th-place Boston College (2-12-1), 14-7 and 11-2; 6th-place West Virginia (10-5) split at 9th-place Georgetown (5-16), 1-2 and 18-1; and 7th-place UConn (9-10) split at home vs. 8th-place Villanova (5-13) 4-2 and 8-10 in 12 innings.