April 27, 1998
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - Sophomore lefthander Tim Kalita recorded a career-best 10 strikeouts while pitching the first complete game of his career and five Notre Dame players drove in runs as the Irish defeated Seton Hall, 6-1, to claim the weekend series Monday in a makeup game at Carroll Field.
Notre Dame (35-11, 12-1 BIG EAST)--which has won 15 of its last 16 and 25 of the last 27--remained atop the BIG EAST standings while lowering its magic number for clinching the regular-season title to five (the Irish have six games left while second-place Rutgers, which is 13-3, has four to play). The Irish have won 32 of their last 39 BIG EAST regular-season games--stretching back to May of 1996--and have won 11 of their last 12 road games this season.
Seton Hall (23-16, 11-6) left seven runners on base while sliding behind Providence (12-7-1) into sixth-place in the BIG EAST standings. The Pirates missed out on a chance to clinch a spot in the six-team BIG EAST Tournament but have a magic number of 1 to clinch a higher finish than seventh-place Connecticut (9-10).
Freshman righthander B.J. Benik (5-2) took the loss, allowing six runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks over eight and two-thirds innings, with three strikeouts.
The teams split a Saturday doubleheader before seeing Sunday's game postponed due to rain. The Irish were just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-7 with two outs during Saturday's opening 5-4 loss but had strong showings in both categories Monday, batting 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position and 6-for-15 with two outs.
Kalita (4-0) had one walk while scattering 10 hits and working out of several jams over his 118-pitch outing. Kalita has allowed just one earned run in his last three outings (21 and one third innings), lowering his ERA from 4.13 to 2.67 during that stretch to rank second in the BIG EAST (behind St. John's Kevin McGeary, 1.60).
SHU's lone run was somewhat of a fluke, as consecutive second-inning fly balls by Dan Hummel and Josh Vath were lost in swirling winds by junior centerfielder Allen Greene and freshman leftfielder Alec Porzel.
Sophomore third baseman Brant Ust--coming off a 5-for-5, three-home-run game--went 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored in Monday's game. Ust batted 9-for-12 in the series, with six RBI and six runs scored. He hit the first pitch in each of his four at-bats Monday, in addition to drawing an intentional walk.
The Irish put two runs on the board in the first. Greene drew a full-count, leadoff walk and senior shortstop J.J. Brock then singled down the leftfield line. Ust came up with two outs and sent a bouncer towards third baseman Craig Zimmerli, who fumbled the ball before lunging towards the third base bag. Greene was barreling down the line and slid into the bag, knocking Zimmerli down and dislodging the ball. Senior first baseman Dan Leatherman then delivered a single to center field, plating two unearned runs.
The Irish added another two-out run in the fourth, when junior catcher Mike Knecht sent a first-pitch single to right-center, stole second and scored on Greene's full-count single to left. Ust then led off the sixth with a single to left, stole second and moved up to third on Leatherman's groundout before scoring on Porzel's sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, Knecht slapped a leadoff double to center and moved up on Greene's bunt before scoring on Brock's first-pitch single to left. The Irish capped the scoring with another two-out run in the ninth. Freshman Ben Cooke stroked a first-pitch double down the left-field line, ending Benik's day, and reliever David Ponce de Leon then walked junior DH Jeff Wagner before serving up an RBI single to left field by Ust.
NOTES: Ust boosted his season batting avg. to .424 (73-for-172), the highest it has been since Jan. 31 (when he opened the season 4-for-8) ... his .424 avg. would rank 5th in Irish history and best since 1993, when Edwin Hartwell hit an Irish-record .447 and Eric Danapilis finished at .438 ... Ust's .826 season slugging pct. is well ahead of Dan Peltier's team record (.783, in '89) ... Ust has 50 RBI in 46 games ... Ust has started all 106 of Notre Dame's games during his career and owns a .395 career batting avg. (156-for-395) that ranks 3rd in Irish history behind Peltier (.406) and Danapilis (.405) ... Ust leads the BIG EAST with 16 home runs (5th in Irish history, four shy of Frank Jacobs' record) and remains on pace to set the BIG EAST record for single-season batting avg. in conference games, currently checking in at .627 (32-for-51), ahead of UConn's Dave Ford (who hit .522 in 1986) ... Ust's .481 career avg. (63-for-131) in BIG EAST games also ranks 1st in the conference's history (SHU's Marteese Robinson hit .432 from 1985-87) ... Knecht is hitting .340 for the season (17-for-50) ... the Irish pitching staff owns a 1.38 ERA over the past 13 games (16 earned runs, 104 innings) ... the Irish season batting avg. stands at .321 while the team slugging (.537) remains ahead of last year's record (.529) ... the Irish have 106 doubles and are on pace for 138 over 60 games, which would best the '97 record (127) ... Notre Dame failed to hit a home run Monday--just the sixth time in the last 28 games the Irish have not homered ... the team home run total (64) remains on the verge of passing last year's record total (66) and the team is on pace for 83 HRs over 60 games ... the Irish pitching staff has 362 K's in 389.2 innings, on pace for a record 472 K's (the record of 399 was set in '97) ... the Irish pitchers are averaging 8.36 K's/9 innings, best at Notre Dame in 25 years ... Notre Dame made just two errors in the SHU series, boosting the season fielding pct. to .961 (well above last season's .942) ... Brock pushed his season RBI total to 48 ... Ust has 21 multiple-hit games, including three 4-hit games and Saturday's 5-for-5 effort ... Brock (.456) and Leatherman (.429) rank 4th and 5th in BIG EAST batting avg. this season while the Irish as a team are hitting .378 in conference games, ahead of the BIG EAST record (.370) shared by the 1987 Seton Hall team and the '89 Villanova squad ... Notre Dame's other team stats in BIG EAST games include a .672 slugging pct., a league-leading .974 fielding pct. and a 3.57 ERA (2nd to St. John's 3.08) ... Notre Dame's team ERA is 2.75 over the past 38 games (since the Miami series) and 2.83 when excluding the Miami series.
NOTRE DAME (35-11, 12-1 BIG EAST) 2-0-0 1-0-1 1-0-1 6 10 1
SETON HALL (23-16, 11-6 BIG EAST) 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1 10 3
Kalita and Knecht. Benik, Ponce de Leon (9) and Hummel.