April 7, 1998

Ball State Holds on for 4-3 Win at Notre Dame

Wagner Ties ND Career Home Run Mark

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Visiting Ball State broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the sixth and then held on for the 4-3 victory to end Notre Dame's 10-game winning streak Tuesday at Eck Stadium.

Ball State (19-8)--the frontrunner in the Mid-American Conference--jumped ahead with two runs in the fourth before needing two more runs in the sixth and some clutch pitching and fielding down the stretch. Senior righthander Jamie Spottz (2-2) picked up the victory, allowing two runs on hour hits and two walks over the first five innings, with two strikeouts. Sophomore lefthander Adam Sheefel was impressive in the ninth en route too his first save of the season, needing just 14 pitches while striking out two of the three batters he faced.

Notre Dame (20-10) failed to equal the longest winning streak in the four-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri but the Irish did extend their streak of games with a home run to 12, thanks to a solo shot by junior catcher Jeff Wagner in the fourth. It was Wagner's 10th home run of the season and 37th of his career, equaling the Notre Dame record shared by Frank Jacobs (1989-91) and former teammate Mike Amrhein (1994-97).

The defeat was just Notre Dame's fifth home loss during the past two seasons (34-5).

Steve Szczepanski (2-3) took the loss in relief of fellow sophomore righthander Scott Cavey. Szczepanski allowed two runs on two hits and a hit batter over the fifth and sixth innings, with one strikeout.

The decisive runs in the sixth were earned, despite a pair of Irish errors in the inning. Larry Bigbie hit a leadoff single to left, stole second and took third when Wagner's throw skipped into center field. Szczepanski then hit Brian Doorman with a pitch and Matt Wood hit a RBI groundball to sophomore third baseman Brant Ust. But first baseman Dan Leatherman dropped the ball, allowing Doorman to move to third. Doorman then scored on a double-play ball off the bat of Tim Fitzharris and Jonathon Kessick followed with a single that would have scored Doorman even without Leatherman's error (as no double play would have been in effect).

Ball State opened the scoring in the fourth, loading the bases with leadoff singles from Jeremy Ridley, Bigbie and Dorrmann before Fitzharris brought home two runs with a one-out single to center field on a 2-2 pitch from Cavey.

Notre Dame sophomore rightfielder Jeff Felker singled to open the bottom of the fourth but was thrown out at second, after taking off when Spottz threw his next pitch in the dirt. The catcher Kessick came up with the ball and the second baseman Ridley made the tag, erasing a crucial baserunner for the Irish as Wagner sent the next pitch over the leftfield fence.

The Irish pushed across the tying run in the fifth. Senior second baseman Todd Frye smacked a one-out single to left and moved to third on a single through the right side of the infield by Leatherman. Frye then came home on Allen's Greene's groundout to the first baseman.

BSU reclaimed the lead in the sixth but the Irish appeared ready to rally again in the bottom of the inning. Felker drew a leadoff walk to end Spottz' night and Wagner then laced a 2-0 pitch from sophomore righthander Chad Wells into left field. The Irish waved Felker home but leftfielder Ben Lassiter relayed the ball to the shortstop Doorman, whose throw to Kessick was in time to tag out the sliding Felker.

The Irish chipped away with a run in the eighth. Felker led off by slapping a pitch from freshman lefthander Jason Hickman to the right side. Ridley fielded the ball but the first baseman Wood was out of position. Hickman hustled over to cover the bag but Ridley's throw was too early, allowing Felker to take second.

The Cardinals then trotted in senior righthander Matt Speicher, who induced Wagner into a foul popup before serving up an RBI single to Ust.

NOTES: Ust's 1-for-4 game leaves him with a .397 season batting average in his bid to become the first Irish batter to break the .400 barrier since Scott Sollmann in 1995 (.406) ... Ust's .793 slugging pct. (11 home runs, 13 doubles, 22 singles in 116 at-bats) would best the Irish record of .783 set by Dan Peltier in 1989 ... Leatherman and Felker extended their season-long hitting streaks to eight games ... freshman righthander Aaron Heilman made his fifth in appearance in eight days, tossing two shutout and no-hit innings while hitting one batting and striking out two ... Heilman's dropped his season ERA to 1.61--which would rank eighth in Irish history and best since David Sinnes led the nation in 1990 (1.05) ... Heilman--the recently-named BIG EAST pitcher of the week--has 36 strikeouts and just seven walks in 28 innings while his .173 opponent batting average would trail only Sinnes (.163 in '92) among Irish pitchers during the past eight seasons (the stat was not kept prior to 1991) ... Brock moved into fourth on the Irish career games started list (210) ... Wagner's double moved him into seventh on the Irish career doubles list (37).

BALL STATE (19-8)       0-0-0   2-0-2   0-0-0   --   4     8    1
NOTRE DAME (20-10)      0-0-0   1-1-0   0-1-0   --   3     7    2           
Spottz, Wells (6), Hickman (8), Speicher (8), Sheefel (9) and Kessick.  
Cavey, Szczepanski (5), O'Hagan (7), Heilman (8) and Wagner. 

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