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Baseball Loses Doubleheader

April 11, 1998

NOTRE DAME, Ind.- Sophomore Jeff Perconte drove in four runs in the opener while his classmate Brant Ust went 5-for-6 in the doubleheader to boost his season batting average to .421, as Notre Dame took a doubleheader from visiting Villanova, 9-4 and 14-10, in BIG EAST Conference action Saturday at Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame (23-10, 8-0 BIG EAST)--which is 37-5 at home over the past two seasons and 28-6 in its last 34 BIG EAST regular season games--remained atop the conference standings despite falling behind in both games. Junior righthanders Alex Shilliday (6-2) and Brad Lidge (5-2) picked up the victories, with freshman righthander Aaron Heilman recording his fourth save in the nightcap while pushing his shutout streak to 18 and two-thirds innings over his last 12 appearances.

Villanova (17-11-1, 3-7) slipped into eighth place in the BIG EAST standings, despite two home runs and a 6-for-9 day from junior leftfielder Dan Boublis, who elevated his season average to .419.

The Irish--who have won 13 of their last 14 games this season and 11 straight in BIG EAST regular-season play--caught a break in the pitching matchups, as VU used its top pitchers Thursday at St. John's while Notre Dame and Rutgers were rained out. Consequently, Shilliday was available Saturday' while sophomore lefthander Tim Kalita was in the bullpen if needed.

VU junior righthander Chris Pilato (2-5) held the Irish to five runs in the opener before a four-run sixth while sophomore righthander Will Henry left the nightcap in the hands of five relievers, with sophomore righthander Brian Manning (2-1) taking the loss.

The visitors held an early 2-0 lead in the opener and forged a 4-4 tie in the fifth before Ust was credited with a fifth-inning double--when Boublis lost the ball in the sun--and scored the game-winning run on Alec Porzel's sacrifice fly.

Villanova jumped out to a 6-2 lead after three innings in the nightcap but the Irish batted around in each of the following three innings, scoring four times in the fourth, five in the fifth and three in the sixth en route to a 21-hit game.

Each team had nine hits in the opener, with Boublis' solo home run in the first and Nick Piantek's RBI single in the second giving VU a 2-0 lead. But Porzel's single scored Ust in the second and the Irish--who have been outscored 30-13 in the first inning this season--went ahead in the third, behind Jeff Wagner's sacrifice fly and Perconte's bases-loaded walk.

Both teams scored a run in the fourth and fifth before the Irish--who saw their home-run streak end at 13 games--plated four runs in the sixth, highlighted by Wagner's RBI double and Perconte's two-strike, bases-loaded triple versus Manning.

Shilliday allowed four runs on nine hits and one walk, with six strikeouts over five and one-thirds innings before yielding to Heilman and sophomore righthander Tom O'Hagan.

VU opened the nightcap with a three-run first inning, behind Matt Longo's RBI single and a two-run blast from Boublis. Ust then had an RBI triple in the second and Dan Leatherman sent his sixth home run of the season over the rightfield fence. But the visitors scored three more in the third, highlighted by Tom Shank's two-run double that produced a 6-2 lead.

Notre Dame tied the game with four runs in the fourth, behind Mike Knecht's RBI double, RBI singles from Allen Greene and Porzel and J.J. Brock's run-scoring triple--one of five Irish three-baggers in the doubleheader.

The decisive five-run fifth included Brock's RBI single, Porzel's two-run triple and RBI doubles by Wagner and Ust. The Irish batted around again in the sixth, with Knecht and Brock collecting RBI singles and Ust drawing a bases-loaded walk.

Lidge yielded six runs (five earned) on six hits and one walk while striking out nine VU batters over six innings. Sophomore righthander Steve Szczepanski then had a rocky outing, giving up three hits and a walk that led to four runs, but Heilman came on for three shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out five.

VILLANOVA               1-1-0   1-1-0   0       4   9   2
NOTRE DAME              0-1-2   1-1-4   X       9   9   2

Pilato, Manning (6) and Grove. Shilliday, Heilman (6), O'Hagan (7) and Wagner.

VILLANOVA (17-11-1, 3-7 BIG EAST)   3-0-3   0-0-0   4-0-0       10  13  4
NOTRE DAME (23-10, 8-0 BIG EAST)    0-2-0   4-5-3   0-0-X       14  21  2

Henry, Manning (4), Krawiec (5), Glover (5), Petre (7), Kirchner (8) and Grove. Lidge, Szczepanski (7), Heilman (7) and Knecht.

AROUND THE BIG EAST: Rutgers remained a game behind Notre Dame, winning twice at home over 11th-place Boston College, 4-3 in 8 innings and 4-3 in 10 innings (BC is 0-7-1) ... idle Seton Hall (6-2) moved into 3rd while St. John's (6-3) moved to 4th with a home sweep of 9th-place Georgetown (2-9), by scores of 4-3 and 10-5 ... Providence (7-4-1) dropped into a tie with West Virginia (5-3) for 5th, losing two at WVU (5-12, 4-7) ... Connecticut (6-5) dropped into 7th after a split at 10th-place Pittsburgh (3-2, 10-12), which is 2-11.