Irish find depth from underclassmen on pitching staff
By NOAH AMSTADTER
Going into the season, Irish baseball coach Paul Mainieri was unsure about the quality of his starting pitching behind returning standouts Aaron Heilman and Scott Cavey.
In two midweek victories Wednesday, over Valparaiso, and Thursday over Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, freshman Matt Laird and sophomore Drew Duff gave Mainieri the depth he was searching for.
Duff struck out seven of the first eight IUPUI Jaguars he faced, en route to a 7-3 victory. He finished with 10 strikeouts, tying the record for most strikeouts by a Notre Dame pitcher at Eck Sta-dium.
Duff allowed three runs in his six innings, and walked just two.
The Irish offense used a balanced attack to push seven runs across the plate. Freshman right fielder Brian Stavisky hit his team-leading seventh home run to start off the scoring in the first, stroking a 0-1 pitch over the right field fence.
Junior shortstop Alec Porzel continued his offensive rampage, recording one hit and scoring three runs. Porzel's hit extends his hitting streak to 12 games.
"I've been seeing the ball really well," Porzel said. "During the season everyone's gonna get hot. I just happen to be hot right now."
Senior catcher Matt Nussbaum added two hits and two runs batted in.
The victory over IUPUI came a day after Notre Dame posted an impressive 7-2 victory over in-state rival Valparaiso.
Laird gave up just one hit and one earned run in five innings.
He also struck out five Crusaders.
Sophomore Matt Buchmeier held Valparaiso scoreless for the final two innings to earn his first career save.
"We're going to need depth in our staff in regards to winning the conference championship," Mainieri said. "It's very encouraging to see a number of pitchers pitching well."
Porzel went 3-5 in the game to lead the offense while sophomore center fielder Steve Stanley added two hits and scored two runs.
The 20-6 Irish now prepare to take on the Boston College Golden Eagles, who visit Eck Stadium for three Big East conference games this weekend.
Rapidly improving after a 1-5 start to the season, the Eagles are riding a five-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of Villanova last weekend.
"We have a lot of respect for Boston College," Mainieri said. "They're a tremendously well-coached team. They're going to come in here all fired up."
Notre Dame will start pre-season All-American Heilman in the first game of Saturday's double-header.
Heilman, coming off of a hard-fought victory over Connecticut last Saturday, is 5-1 on the year with a 1.70 earned-run average.
Cavey starts the second game and will be looking for his fourth win of the season after a tough loss to the Huskies last weekend.
On Sunday afternoon, freshman J.P Gagne will take the mound for the Irish, following an impressive victory over Connecticut in which he allowed only two runs over seven innings.
With three successful pitchers and an improving offense, the Irish couldn't be more confident.
"We feel really comfortable. We thought we had a really good weekend at Connecticut," Porzel said. "After swinging the bats as well as we have the last few days, we're excited about another Big East weekend."
All three games will be broadcast on the Internet at www.und.com as well as on WJVA 1580 AM.
All Sports Stories for Friday, April 7, 2000