Irish improve record over break with 4-1 stretch
By BRYAN KRONK
Right now, the only thing stopping the Notre Dame baseball team from winning is Mother Nature.
Tuesday's heavy rains cancelled the second game of Notre Dame's two-game series against Brigham Young and delayed the opportunity for the Irish to extend its longest winning streak of the season past four games.
Over the long Easter weekend, the Irish played two doubleheaders and a fifth game against Brigham Young. In these five games, the Irish finished with a 4-1 record and improved their overall record to 13-10, and 3-4 in the Big East.
Monday's matchup with the Cougars opened the home season for the Irish. Junior J.P. Gagne pitched a complete game shutout and unlikely hero junior Mike Holba provided the lone run in a fast-paced 1-0 victory for the Irish.
The only scoring in the one hour, 39 minute game came in the bottom of the third inning. Holba — who had not traveled to any of Notre Dame's 22 previous games this season — lined a one-out double to left-center field. He moved up to third on Joe Thaman's ground out to Brigham Young pitcher Jeff Stone and scored when Stone threw a wild pitch.
Meanwhile, Gagne recovered from a rough start Thursday against West Virginia to pitch his first career shutout. In his nine innings of work, Gagne allowed just three hits, while throwing 71 of his 108 pitches for strikes. His ERA dropped to a team-best 3.06.
Monday's win marked the seventh consecutive season in which the Irish have won their home opener.
The Irish entered Monday's game after sweeping Georgetown in a doubleheader on Saturday. This doubleheader marked an offensive explosion for the Irish, who compiled 35 hits in the two games, and finished the two-game series with an overall batting average of .461, en route to 10-6 and 12-3 victories over the Hoyas. Five Irish players finished the day with five hits and freshmen starters Chris Niesel and John Axford pitched well enough to give the Irish the Saturday sweep.
Saturday's sweep came on the heels of nearly being swept at the hands of West Virginia. After losing the first game 4-2, the Irish needed a huge comeback in the nightcap to win the second game 10-6 and split the series with the Mountaineers.
In the second game, the Mountaineers carried a 6-1 lead into the seventh inning. However, Steve Stanley lined a bases-loaded single down the third-base line that scored two.
Two pitches later, Paul O'Toole smashed a line drive down the right field line that cleared the fence for his team-leading fifth home run of the season, and tied the score at 6.
Javier Sanchez broke the tie in the 10th when he blasted a West Virginia pitch to left-center, driving in two more runs and giving the Irish all the insurance they would need.
Irish relievers Drew Duff, Matt Buchmeier and Martin Vergara were able to hold the Mountaineers to just one unearned run on five hits in the final nine innings of the game.
Due to Tuesday's rainout, the Irish will make up the game by playing a doubleheader against Valparaiso today at 4:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium. Probable starters for the Irish will be Vergara and Peter Ogilvie.
u Junior Brian Stavisky was hit in the cheek by a pitch thrown by West Virginia's Billy Biggs in the third inning of the opening game of Thursday's doubleheader. He suffered a facial fracture and has not played since Thursday. He has missed a total of 13 starts this season.
u O'Toole was named Big East Player of the Week on Tuesday following his contributions to Notre Dame's 3-1 record last week.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, April 3, 2002