March 26, 1998

Felker Reaches Base on All Eight Plate Appearances, Irish Split With Northeastern Illinois

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame sophomore Jeff Felker reached base on all eight of his plate appearances of the day while raising his season batting average 84 points as Notre Dame bounced back from a 10-4 loss to beat Northeastern Illinois, 11-6, and earn a split of Thursday's seven-inning doubleheader at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame (11-9) stranded 11 runners in the first game and then overcame five errors that led to six unearned runs in the nightcap, rallying from an early 6-1 deficit to earn the split. The Irish comeback featured four runs in the third and a six-run fourth, highlighted by a two-run, go-ahead double by senior first baseman Dan Leatherman and the second big two-run home run of the day by sophomore third baseman Brant Ust.

Sophomore righthander Steve Szczepanski (2-2) picked up the win with three shutout relief innings, allowing just one hit while striking out three. Senior righthander Kevin Loukota (0-1) took the loss, allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits and one walk over one and one-third innings.

Felker was 4-for-4 in the first game before going 2-for-2 in the nightcap, with two walks. He entered the day with just nine hits for the season and a .170 batting average before ending the day at .254.

Notre Dame's decisive rally began when Matt Nussbaum reached on an error by first baseman Scott Cartier. The Irish then rapped out five straight hits, including Allen Greene's single to center and Leatherman's opposite-field double to left-center. J.J. Brock then worked to a full count before finding the gap in right-center, scoring Leatherman, and Jeff Wagner pushed the Irish ahead 9-6 with a hit-and-run single to right-center. Ust capped the big inning with his fifth home run of the season, a blast that carried well past the left-field fence.

The Eagles opened the second game with three runs, two of them unearned after a pair of errors by Brock. Eric Villareal opened with a single and then took second when Brock dropped the toss from second baseman Todd Frye on Bob Kostuch's grounder. John Will followed with a single to center, plating Villareal, and Brock threw the ball away trying to nail Kostuch at third, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead while Will moved to third. Mark Raciti's infield single held the runner but Mizwicki brought home Will with a single through the left side.

NEIU (5-7) added two unearned runs in the second, after a walk by Jason Miller, an error by Ust and Villareal's single to left field loaded the bases. Kostuch brought home Miller with what should have been an inning-ending double play.

The Irish scored a run in the second, after a leadoff double by Ust, a walk by Felker, a double steal and Frye's RBI groundout. NEIU answered with an unearned run in the third, ignited by Cartier's two-out single, an error by Leatherman and Miller's RBI single.

Notre Dame fought back with four runs in the third. Greene sent a leadoff double over the head of rightfielder Miguel Romero and moved to third on Leatherman's single to right, with Leatherman moving to second on the throw. Greene then scored on a wild pitch and Wagner walked before Leatherman scored on Ust's groundout. Ust stole second and scored on a triple down the rightfield line by Felker, who came home moments later on Alec Porzel's hard-hit infield single to the shortstop.

NEIU senior righthander Craig Hallgren (2-1) picked up the win in the opener, allowing one run on two hits and three walks over the first two innings of a planned rotation. Irish senior righthander Dan Stavisky (0-1) took the loss, recording one out while allowing three first-inning runs on two hits, two walks, a hit batter and wild pitch.

After the Eagles' early 3-0 lead, the teams matched one another over each of the next three innings, with both teams scoring once in the second, twice in the third and once in the fourth. NEIU's three-run first was highlighted by RBI singles from Will and Mike Mizwicki. Will's sacrifice fly plated Mike Nisi in the second before the Irish scored a run in the bottom of the inning, behind a Jeff Perconte walk, Felker's single, Ben Cooke's bunt single and Mike Knecht's sacrifice fly.

Cartier gave the visitors a 6-1 lead in the third, after sending a two-run shot over the fence in deep right-center field. Ust answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run blast of his own, plating Brock with a linedrive over the leftfield fence.

NEIU added an unearned run in the fourth, after Brock went for a grounder up the middle but flicked the ball past Cooke at second base, allowing Loukota to score from second. The Irish kept pace moments later, when Brock's sacrifice floor scored Knecht. The Eagles added a run in the fifth, on Villareal's two-out, two-strike single, before Nisi's bases-loaded single down the leftfield line plated two more runs in the seventh.

NORTHEASTERN ILLINOIS  3-1-2  1-1-0  2    10 11 0
NOTRE DAME             0-1-2  1-0-0  0    4  9  1
Hallgren, Dorey (3), Smith (4), Duke (6), Greenlee and Raciti. Stavisky, Carlin (1), O'Hagan (5) and Knecht, Wagner (6).
NORTHEASTERN ILLINOIS (5-7)  3-2-1  0-0-0  0    6  8  1
NOTRE DAME (11-9)            0-1-4  6-0-0  0    11 13 5
Kvasnicka, Laukota (3), Vetter (4), Cartier (6) and Miller. Naumann, Szczepanski (4), Lapinskas (7) and Wagner, Knecht (7).

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