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Nix's Game-Saving Catch Keeps Notre Dame in First

April 27, 1985|JOHANNES TESSELAAR | Times Staff Writer

At the time, the possibilities didn't run through the mind of Notre Dame's Roger Nix.

"But now that I think about it," the Knights' right fielder said, "I'm getting goose bumps."

What had Nix all excited was his running, lunging catch that ended the game and preserved Notre Dame's 8-4 victory over St. Francis Friday afternoon on its home field.

"I was just hoping he'd knock the ball down or catch it," Notre Dame Coach John Barrett said. "The way the ball was hooking, it could have been an inside-the-park homer."

And since the bases were loaded when Sam Vranjes hit his slicing line drive toward the right-field line, Nix's catch prevented at least three runs from scoring.

"I didn't see the ball off the bat," said Nix, a right-hander. "But then I saw that big hook and just ran like hell."

The longer Nix talked about his catch, the bigger his smile grew. But the grin was as much a sign of relief as it was of happiness. Without the catch, Notre Dame would have been left to wonder how a six-run lead in the seventh inning got away.

Eric Persson (7-1) went the distance for Notre Dame (7-2, 13-4), which took over first place in the Del Rey League. St. Francis fell to 6-3 in league and 14-7 overall. St. John Bosco (6-2) was idle Friday and will play Notre Dame at home on Tuesday.

"I wasn't at ease during warm-ups," Persson said. "I was too pumped up. We had to have this win."

And the Knights got it, because Persson settled down in time to limit St. Francis to nine hits.

"My curve ball was really working," said Persson, who was sporting a baseball-size welt just above his left elbow, courtesy of a bottom-of-the-sixth Brian Calderon fastball.

Persson's left arm, his non-pitching arm, tightened up some in the seventh inning, which partially explained St. Francis' mini-rally from an 8-2 deficit.

"I told the coach that I was finishing the game," Persson said. And he got the complete game only because of Nix's catch. Barrett said that Vranjes was the last batter Persson was going to face.

St. Francis' two runs in the second inning were the direct result of three Notre Dame errors. But Todd Nilsen's two-run homer in the bottom of the inning tied the score.

Notre Dame got three runs in the third on sacrifice flys by Rex McMakin and Nilsen and a wild-pitch by Brian Calderon, the game's losing pitcher.

Persson delivered another sacrifice fly in the fourth, while Kurt Keitzman's long fly ball out in the fifth scored another run.

Notre Dame had nine hits on the day, the last being a single by Scott Hayward to make it 8-2 in the bottom of the sixth.

Persson breezed through the game until the seventh, when Pat Sullivan's third hit of the game made it 8-3 and Jamie Davenport's single closed the gap to 8-4.

But then Nix made his clutch play and the Knights came up with another catch--first place.

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