Jan. 30, 1998

Notre Dame Posts 10-1 Win over No. 23 Florida State

Shilliday, Leatherman and Felker lead the way in earliest season-opener in Irish baseball history

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Notre Dame's earliest season opener in the 106-year history of the school's baseball program proved to be a memorable one, as the Irish used a strong pitching performance by junior righthander Alex Shilliday and RBI from six different players to post a 10-1 victory over #23 Florida State, in first-day action Friday night at the ACC/Disney Baseball Blast, held at Disney Wide World of Sports Complex.

The loss snapped a 16-year FSU winning streak on opening day while Notre Dame posted its first opening-game win since an 8-2 win at Tulane in 1994, with the recent opening losses coming versus perennial powers Texas, Georgia Tech and Long Beach State. Georgia Southern was the last team to defeat FSU in the Seminoles' season opener, posting a 3-2 win in 1981.

Shilliday tossed five shutout innings, posting six strikeouts and four walks while surrendering his only hit in the fourth. Junior lefthander Chris McKeown pitched the next three innings, allowing one run on two hits and a walk (with three K's). Freshman righthander Aaron Heilman closed out the game in the ninth, facing four batters while allowing one hit.

The Irish roughed up FSU junior righthander Chris Chavez for seven runs (all earned) over three and two-thirds innings, on eight hits and three walks. Sophomore righthander John Bentley stopped the bleeding, yielding just one run over four and one-third innings on three hits and a walk. Freshman lefthander Mike Smalley allowed four walks and two runs (one earned) in the final inning.

Notre Dame jumped ahead 2-0 in the top of the first, with senior shortstop J.J. Brock opening the season with a hit to right field. Senior second baseman Todd Frye--who led the BIG EAST Conference with 12 sacrifice bunts last season---bunted Brock over to second before singles from sophomore third baseman Brant Ust, junior catcher Jeff Wagner and junior centerfielder Allen Greene provided the early two-run lead.

Shilliday used three first-inning strikeouts to work out of an early jam, as FSU left a runner on third base.

Notre Dame added two runs in the second. Sophomore DH Jeff Perconte drew a leadoff walk and moved up on a single by senior first baseman Dan Leatherman and a fielder's choice off the bat of Brock. Frye then singled home Perconte before Brock scored on a sacrifice fly from Ust.

The Irish broke open the game with a four-run fourth inning. Leatherman-who hit one home run in 55 at-bats last season--lined a leadoff home run over the right field fence for a 5-0 Irish lead before sophomore Jeff Felker cleared the bases with a three-run double. Ust, Wagner and Greene all drew two-out walks before the Felker lifted a ball into left field, with the FSU outfielders losing the ball in the lights.

FSU senior catcher Jeremy Salazar registered the only hit against Shilliday, smacking a leadoff double in the bottom of the fourth. But Shilliday used a groundout and two strikeouts to get out of the inning.

FSU's lone run came in the seventh, when senior leftfielder Brian Cox singled and scored on a two-out double by freshman third baseman Brett Groves, who was thrown out by Brock trying to stretch for a triple.

The Irish tacked on two runs in the ninth. Wagner and Greene opened the inning with walks and Felker hit into a fielder's choice. FSU senior second baseman Jose Zabala then misplayed a ball off the bat of freshman leftfielder Alec Porzel, plating Wagner, before Greene came home on a groundout by Leatherman.

NOTES: Notre Dame's previous earliest season-opener came on an unseasonably warm day on Feb. 5, 1990, when the Irish posted a 3-0 home victory over Goshen ... the season-opening batting order consisted of: Brock, Frye, Ust, Wagner, Greene, Felker, Porzel, Perconte and Leatherman ... Friday's other scores include a 23-6 win by Tennessee over North Carolina State and an 8-7 win by Duke over Ohio State ... Notre Dame is scheduled to send sophomore lefthander Tim Kalita to the mound Saturday night vs. NC State while junior righthander Brad Lidge is slated to throw Sunday afternoon against Duke ... Brock, Frye, Felker and Leatherman each recorded two hits in the game while Perconte (0-for-3, run scored) was the only starter who did not record a hit ... Brock's five at-bats moved him into a tie for 10th on the Irish all-time list with 633 career at-bats, just seven behind '97 graduate Randall Brooks and 10 behind '96 grad. Scott Sollmann (643) ... Brock, Brooks and Sollmann all were part of the program's incoming class in 1993-94, as was Mike Amrhein (who ranks third in Irish history with 745 at-bats).

NOTRE DAME          220 400 002 -   10  11  1
#23 FLORIDA STATE   000 000 100 -   01  04  2

Shilliday, McKeown (6), Heilman (9) and Wagner, Knecht (9);
Chavez, Bentley (4), Smalley (9) and Salazar, Klosterman (9).

W - Shilliday (1-0).
L - Chavez (0-1).
HR - Leatherman (solo, 4th inning).
Doubles: ND 1 (Felker), FSU 2 (Groves, Salazar).

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