April 15, 1998

Three More Home Runs Push Irish Past Purdue, 7-1

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Three Notre Dame players smacked memorable home runs while the Irish pitching staff turned in another strong performance as Notre Dame defeated visiting Purdue, 7-1, Wednesday in front of 1,012 fans at the annual "turn-back-the-clock" night.

Notre Dame (27-10)---which has won 17 of its last 18 this season and is 41-5 at home over the past two campaigns--received a leadoff home run from junior centerfielder Allen Greene in the first, a three-run shot from sophomore right fielder Jeff Felker in the third and a solo shot off the lights by reigning BIG EAST player of the week Brant Ust in the fifth. The Irish have homered in 17 of their last 19 games, collecting 34 of their 52 home runs during that stretch.

The Irish pitching staff allowed nine hits and six walks but allowed just one run, dropping the team season ERA to 4.42. The Irish hurlers have allowed just two earned runs in the last 30 innings.

Purdue (16-18) stranded 11 runners while matching the Irish by using five pitchers. Freshman lefthander David Gassner (1-5) took the loss, allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits over the first three innings. The Irish are now 8-1 this season when the opponent starts a lefthander.

Junior righthander Alex Shilliday (7-2)--who is 13-3 in his last 16 decisions with the Irish (in addition to a 9-0 summer in the challenging Alaska League)--was credited with the victory in a planned rotation, allowing three hits and one walk over two shutout innings to open the game. Junior righthander Brad Lidge and freshman lefthander Mike Naumann then added two shutout innings each while sophomore righthander Tom O'Hagan served up an eighth-inning home run by Bill Bennett.

Freshman righthander Aaron Heilman closed the game in the ninth while running his shutout streak to 21 innings over his last 14 appearances. Heilman allowed a hit and a walk while recording his 43rd strikeout of the season in 34 innings. Heilman's 1.32 season ERA would rank fifth in the nation, but he is just shy of the minimum one inning pitched per team game (37).

Greene led off the bottom of the first by drilling a leadoff, first-pitch offering from Gassner over the fence and inside the leftfield foul pole for his sixth home run of the season.

The Irish tacked on four runs in the third, with Greene reaching on a one-out error by third baseman Steve Lorek. Senior shortstop J.J. Brock then doubled down the leftfield line and Felker cleared the bases with his third home run of the season on a blast that carried well over the rightfield fence. Junior DH Jeff Wagner kept things going with an infield single--extending his hitting streak to 10 games--and moved up on an error by second baseman Nathan Sickler and Ust's groundout. Senior first baseman Dan Leatherman capped the inning with a two-out, opposite-field single to left field.

Ust smacked his ninth home run in the last 20 games in the fifth, launching a two-out, 1-0 pitch from senior righthander Phil Davis into the lights stationed high above the leftfield fence.

The Irish added a final run in the eighth, when Ben Cooke was hit by a Jeremy Ballard pitch, stole second, took third on a throwing error by the catcher and scored on a passed ball.

Full Box

PURDUE (16-18)      0-0-0   0-0-0   0-1-0       1   9   3
NOTRE DAME (27-10)  1-0-4   0-1-0   0-1-0       7   11  0
Gassner, Davis (4), Kaebisch (6), Tinkle (7), Ballard (8) and Frei, Brown (8).
Shilliday, Lidge (3), Naumann (5), O'Hagan (7), Heilman (9) and Knecht.

BIG EAST NOTES: In BIG EAST Conference action Wednesday, second-place Rutgers (8-1) won a 9-8 home game over Seton Hall (7-4), dropping the Pirates into fourth place ... St. John;s (7-3) moved into third with an 8-4 home win in 10 innings over seventh-place Connecticut (6-6) ... fifth-place West Virginia (6-3) defeated 10th-place Pittsburgh (2-12) in a game at Three Rivers Stadium, where the Irish will face the Panthers this weekend (6:30 DH on Saturday, 5 PM game on Sunday) ... sixth-place Providence (8-4-1) posted an 8-2 win at last-place Boston College (0-8-1) ... eighth-place Villanova (4-7) won 3-1 at ninth-place Georgetown (3-11).

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