April 26, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Notre Dame designated hitter Matt Bok came up with a two-strike, two-out bases loaded single in to break a 4-4 tied in the bottom of the fifth inning to help lead the Fighting Irish to a 9-4 victory over the 17th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils Friday night at Frack Eck Stadium.
Playing on a cold and crisp night in front of a Notre Dame home record crowd of 2,900, ASU was its own worst enemy by leaving 11 men on base and equaling a season high with four errors. ASU also put men in scoring position in seven of the nine innings. Spoiling the homecoming for ASU head coach Pat Murphy, who built ND non-funded sport into a national power from 1988 to 1994, the Devils fall to 26-16 overall.
"We didn't' play with tenacity tonight and certainly didn't execute when we needed to early in the game," said ASU head coach Pat Murphy. "We know what is ahead of us and playing well on the road in tough circumstances like we had tonight with the weather is something this team needs to experience. We were out of a tough jam in the fifth if Larish catches that baseball, but that is the nature of the game. Sometime the bounces go your way, sometimes they don't."
The Fighting Irish continue to fight their way back into the national spotlight, extending their winning streak to 12 games to improve to 30-12 overall. The preseason No. 4 team in the nation has now won 21 of its last 23 games.
Irish relief pitcher J.P. Gagne picked up the win out of the bullpen, allowing only two hits and struck out five in four and a third scoreless innings. He entered the game with a 4-4 tie at his back after starter John Axford endured control problems with five walks and three hit batters in 4.2 innings. Gagne improved to 6-3 with the victory and is now 4-0 with one save in last six games, which includes a streak of 18.2 consecutive shutout innings.
For the second consecutive weekend ASU starting pitcher Robbie McClellan was roughed up early in the game to ruin what was otherwise a solid outing. The junior from Liberal, Kan., scattered six hits and gave up six runs (five earned) in 4.1 innings to fall to 7-4 on the year and is now 5-2 as a starter.
After giving up the four runs to ASU in the top of the inning, the Irish came right back with three two-out runs in the bottom of the inning. Inheriting a bases loaded jam out of the bullpen, Illinois native Mark Sopko struck out the first batter he faced and seemingly got the Devils out of trouble with a foul fly, but freshman third baseman Jeff Larish slipped and fell, allowing the at-bat to extend. Designated hitter Matt Bok then made the most of his opportunity, knocking in two runs with a sharp single to right field. A wild pitch scored another run to extend ND's lead to 7-4.
Leaving men in scoring position in the first four innings, ASU finally cashed in on its many opportunities with four runs in the top of the fifth to tied the game at 4-4. Catcher Cesar Castillo led off the frame with a double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Steve Garrabrants. Two hit batters loaded the bases and a fielding error by shortstop Javier Sanchez kept the inning alive. Larish brought the game even with a two-run, two-out single up the middle.
After both teams stranded runners in scoring position in the first inning, the Irish put four on the board in the bottom of the second to take the early lead. A walk, hit by pitch and a soft single to left field loaded the bases with one out. First baseman Joe Thaman opened the scoring with bloop single to center field to score right fielder Kris Billmaier. National Player of the Year candidate Steve Stanley plated two more runs with single to center to help lift the Irish to a 4-0 lead.
Managing only five hits on the night, Garrabrants led the way for the Devils with a 2-for-4 game, including his team-leading fifth triple of the year. Freshman shortstop Dustin Pedroia had his season-high nine-game hitting streak snapped in the loss.
Notre Dame was led by Stanley's three hits and a 2-for-4 game from preseason All-American left fielder Brian Stavisky. Stanley, Steve Sollmann and Bok all tabbed multi-RBI games in the contest.
Weather permitting the Sun Devils and Fighting Irish will square off in the final game of the brief two-game series Saturday at 3:05 p.m. CST at Frank Eck Stadium. Heavy rain and wind is expected in the South Bend area that could force the game to 11 a.m. Sunday.
Notre Dame 9, Arizona State 4 (Apr 26, 2002 at Notre Dame, Ind.) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Arizona State....... 000 040 000 - 4 5 4 (26-16) Notre Dame.......... 040 031 01X - 9 9 3 (30-12) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Pitchers: Arizona State - McClellan; Kartler(5); Sopko(5). Notre Dame - Axford; Gagne(5). Win-Gagne(6-3) Loss-McClellan(7-3) T-3:06 A-2900