May 10, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind.- Matt Galante's single up the middle plated the winning run in the top of the ninth as visiting St. John's claimed a 6-5 victory to take the weekend series from #24-ranked Notre Dame, in the BIG EAST Conference regular-season finale for both teams Sunday at Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame (38-15, 15-4 BIG EAST)--which opens play at the BIG EAST Tournament on May 13 vs. #5 seed West Virginia--surrendered three unearned runs in the seventh but battled back to tie the game with three runs in the eighth. Freshman righthander Aaron Heilman (6-2) came on in the ninth but issued a one-out walk to Steven Lewis, who stole second and third before scoring on Galante's hit up the middle.
St. John's (27-15-1, 14-7 BIG EAST) clinched a third-place finish in the BIG EAST standings and will face #4 seed Providence in the first round Wednesday. Junior righthander Greg Peterson (5-2), the Red Storm's fifth pitcher of the game, picked up the win, allowing one run on two hits and two walks over the final one and two-thirds innings while totaling three big strikeouts in the ninth inning with a runner on first base.
Lewis walked on a full count with one out in the ninth before swiping second and third base. The 5-5, 140-pound Galante then delivered the biggest hit of the game, fouling off three pitches with two strikes and working to a full count before sending a linedrive to center field.
Todd Frye drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth but Jeff Perconte struck out, after fouling off three pitches while attempting to bunt the runner into scoring position. J.J. Brock then struck out swinging at a 2-2 pitch and Peterson worked to a full count before catching Alec Porzel looking at strike three, with BIG EAST leading hitter Brant Ust on deck.
St. John's entered the week with the nation's fifth-best team ERA (3.74), lowering that number to 3.64 over the weekend, while Notre Dame improved on a team ERA that ranked ninth in the nation (it dropped from 3.91 to 3.81 over the weekend).
Irish sophomore lefthander Tim Kalita worked the first six innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and three walks, with four K's. Kalita--who entered the week ranked 21st in the nation for ERA--dropped his ERA from 2.49 to 2.41. He has allowed just two earned runs in his last five appearances (34.2 innings).
Scott Cavey pitched the hard-luck seventh for the Irish while fellow sophomore righthander Steve Szczepanski pitched the eighth. Cavey allowed three unearned runs on three hits, with one K, while Szczepanski yielded a run on one hit and one walk.
Sophomore righthander Patrick Collins pitched the first four innings for St. John's, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks. Junior lefthander James Salvo and senior righthander Eddie Olsen then each pitched a scoreless inning before yielding to junior righthander John Niebling.
Brock ignited the eighth-inning rally with a single to center field versus Niebling before Porzel dropped down a bunt to the left side of the infield. Third baseman Mike Dzurilla was caught off guard and threw high and wide of first base, with Brock moving to third and Porzel to second on the error.
Ust then greeted Peterson with a two-run single to right-center and Jeff Wagner followed with a first-pitch double to left-center, with Ust holding at third. Jeff Felker walked on a full count to load the bases and Allen Greene plated the tying run with a deep flyout to left-center, with the centerfielder Lewis making a lunging grab at the warning track.
Cavey appeared headed for a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh but Robert Fierro stroked a two-out single to center and Lewis kept things going with a first-pitch single to left. Galante then sent a 2-2 pitch from Cavey towards the shortstop Brock, whose throw to first base was several feet short, bouncing out of Dan Leatherman's glove to keep the inning alive. Giancarlo DiPrima then sent a two-run shot to the warning track in right-center, with the ball falling out of the glove of the lunging centerfielder Greene.
St. John's added what proved to be a crucial run in the eighth, after Dzurilla's leadoff, first-pitch double, a wild pitch by Szczepanski and Gary Villacres' sacrifice fly to center field.
Brock led off the bottom of the first with his 12th home run of the season and 20th of his career, sending an 0-1 pitch from Collins to the opposite field, inside the rightfield foul pole.
The visitors tied the game in the second, behind Villacres' one-out double down the leftfield line, Eric Potts' groundout and a costly wild pitch from Kalita that allowed Villacres to score.
Notre Dame reclaimed the lead in the fourth, after Wagner's one-out walk and Greene's double to the right-center gap. Wagner turned the corner at third but slipped on his way home. The Red Storm then made a mental error, pursuing Greene in a rundown between second and third while Wagner was able to score before the putout.
Ust's .493 conference batting average (37-for-75) is best by a BIG EAST player during the 1990s, besting the mark set last season by Wagner (.488). Connecticut's Dave Ford owns the single-season BIG EAST batting record (.522, in 1986). Dzurilla finished second in the BIG EAST batting chase this season, at .464.
West Virginia (36-15-1, 13-9) used a run in the bottom of the ninth Sunday to post an 11-10 victory over visiting Villanova.
Notre Dame is 3-4 in its last seven games, with each of those games decided by three or fewer runs.
ST. JOHN'S (27-15-1, 14-7 BIG EAST) 0-1-0 0-0-0 3-1-1 6 9 2 NOTRE DAME (38-15, 15-4 BIG EAST) 1-0-0 1-0-0 0-3-0 5 8 1 Collins, Salvo (5), Olsen (6), Niebling (7), Peterson (8) and Fierro. Kalita, Cavey (7), Szczepanski (8), Heilman (9) and Wagner, Knecht (9).