April 28, 1998
SOUTH BEND, IND. -- Michigan State banged out 12 hits, while the Spartans got tremendous pitching, as the Spartans knocked off Notre Dame in an exciting 4-1 victory on Tuesday night.
Michigan State's pitching staff limited the Fighting Irish (35-12) offense to just four hits in the contest, not allowing a single earned run. MSU (24-20) defeated one of the hottest squads in the country, as the loss is just the Irish's third in the last 28 games.
Mark Mulder (6-4) pitched four innings of hitless ball to start for the Spartans, as he fanned five while walking one. With his final whiff, the southpaw became just the third Spartan in MSU history to record 100 strikeouts in a season. The MSU record of 107 (by Mel Behney in 1968) is within sight for Mulder.
Tom Grigg and Mike Wagner each had three hits to lead the Spartan offense, which collected 12 hits. The Spartans posted two runs in the first off ND starter Chris McKeown (4-2) and two more on a clutch two-out, two-RBI single by Mulder in the fifth. The Spartans had numerous chances against Irish ace reliever Aaron Heilman, but could not put any across, as the freshman right-hander struck out eight Spartans in four innings, lowering his ERA to 0.97 on the season, extending his personal scoreless streak to 32.1 IP.
Mulder was followed up by a foursome of Spartan relievers who got the job done on the mound for MSU. After an inning by senior Brian Murphy, Scott Brandell battled through two innings, giving up only an unearned run. The freshman right-hander got himself out of jams with the help from the MSU defense, stalling any ideas of a Irish rally.
Another freshman right-hander, Josh Axelson, came into the ballgame in the midst of a Notre Dame offensive and proceeded to put out the fire with a mix of hard fastballs and knee-buckling breaking stuff, inducing a groundball doubleplay with the tying run at the plate to end the eighth. Chris Yens ended the contest for the Spartans, setting the Irish down for his sixth save of the season.
The Spartans got off to a quick start in the top of the first. Carlos Fernandez led off with a walk. Senior Tom Grigg lined a single to left, putting two runners aboard with none out. Mike Wagner followed with another no-out single, this time lining into right, sending Fernandez home with the game's first run, as Grigg moved to third. Joe Kalczynski followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center, as MSU took off with a 2-0 advantage.
Mark Mulder took over with the strength of his left arm on the hill for the Spartans, as he set the first six Irish hitters down in order. After working out of a two-out jam in the third, Mulder delivered another 123 inning in his fourth and final frame.
The Spartans picked up another pair of McKeown in the top of the fifth. With one down, a pair of singles by Grigg and Wagner put two runners aboard. After a Kalczynski groundout moved both runners into scoring position, Mulder delivered them both with a line single into center, giving MSU a 4-0 lead which they would not relinquish.
After senior hurler Brian Murphy worked a scoreless fifth, Brandell allowed an unearned run in the sixth, as ND got on the board. But Brandell saved himself from further damage, as catcher Kalczynski nailed Irish runner J.J. Brock trying a double-steal with runners on first and third. The runner from third could not advance, as the Spartan infield retired Brock in a rundown. After an RBI single Jeff Felker, Brandell got a fly out and pop out to get out of the inning.
Heilman came on in the sixth for the Irish and struck out the side in his first inning. But the Spartans threatened in both the seventh and eighth, including a bases-loaded situation in the seventh, but could not score off the freshman side-armer.
After Brandell got out of the seventh unscathed, thanks to Kalczynski picking a runner off second with two outs to get the Spartans out of a two-on, two-out jam. After Brandell walked the first batter in the eighth, Axelson came on. After getting the first hitter he faced to fly to center, Felker put together a solid at bat for the Irish, fouling off six pitches with two strikes on him to force a walk. But Axelson got ND clean-up man Jeff Wagner, representing the game's tying run, to ground sharply into a 4-6-3 double play, ending the threat.
Chris Yens entered the game in the ninth, as he has been on fire recently serving as the Spartans' closer, including a 0.90 ERA in his last ten innings. After putting ND-lead off man Brant Ust aboard via a hit batsman on a 1-2 pitch, he induced a ground out and a fly out to put the Spartans within one out of victory. But a Spartan error kept the inning alive, as the Fighting Irish brought the tying runner to plate in the form of catcher Mike Knecht. Yens got him to fly to left, earning his sixth save, as the Spartans took the 4-1 final decision.
MSU, who has now won seven of its last eight, now heads home to take on Minnesota in a crucial four-game homestand at Oldsmobile Park. Mulder, who will throw game one of the Saturday doubleheader, will be looking to eclipse the single-season strikeout mark, as the southpaw is now just seven away from tying the mark.
Michigan State 200 020 000 - 4 12 2 Notre Dame 000 001 000 - 1 4 0