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Connaughton Stays True To His Two Sports

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Photo by Matt Cashore

Another Irish baseball player from the Boston area is in the news today. Lenny Megliola of The Boston Globe profiles two-sport freshman star Pat Connaughton. Here's an excerpt.

When Pat Connaughton was a junior at St. John's Prep in Danvers, Boston College baseball coach Mik Aoki offered the tall, fireballing righthander a scholarship.

But Aoki knew that there was more than baseball on Connaughton's mind.

"He was pretty much committed to playing basketball at BC,'' said Aoki. "I was trying to make the point that his future was in baseball.''

Connaughton however, wound up in Irish blue & gold, and not just a basketball uniform as it may have originally seemed. He pitched 2.2 innings in relief on Sunday, and picked up his first collegiate victory in Notre Dame's 7-5 win over Pittsburgh. Check out Megliola's full article on The Boston Globe website.

Chase A Leader On And Off The Diamond

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Notre Dame senior infielder Tommy Chase was recently featured in a story by John R. Johnson on Boston.com. Check out an excerpt below:

Tommy Chase is hitting a shade below .230 for the University of Notre Dame baseball team. And nagging injuries have limited the senior middle infielder to designated hitter duties for much of the season.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Chase would like to make more of an impact on the field for the Irish, and perhaps at the plate. But his mere presence is helping the Irish to turn a losing 2011 campaign (23-29-1) into a season of hope this spring.

A Cohasset native who played at Boston College High, Chase was named a cocaptain despite entering the season with 14 career at-bats. His leadership skills have brought a sense of focus to a Notre Dame squad that features 13 freshmen. The Irish (15-7) have won eight of their last 10 games and are 3-0 in the Big East after a three-game weekend sweep of Pittsburgh.

"He's just one of those kids that does a little bit of everything,'' said Notre Dame coach Mik Aoki, in his second season after four years at Boston College.

Visit Boston.com for Johnson's full story on Notre Dame's senior leader.

The Irish travel to South Florida this weekend for a series with the Bulls, before returning to Frank Eck Stadium on Tuesday, April 3 in a non-conference game against Toledo.

A Perfect Sunday Afternoon

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What a day to be a Notre Dame athletics fan.

It started at 1:00 pm with another great crowd on hand at Arlotta Stadium, as the #6 men's lacrosse team opened up BIG EAST play against Rutgers. The Fighting Irish got four goals from Sean Rogers, two from Jim Marlatt and one apiece from six other scorers to win their fifth game in a row and improve to 6-1 overall.

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At the same time the laxers were locked in a close one at Arlotta, the Irish squad on the diamond had a tough BIG EAST game at nearby Frank Eck Stadium. It took seven different pitchers, but the Notre Dame baseball team also won its fifth in a row, closing out a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh with a 7-5 win.

Notre Dame held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the eighth, but had managed just three hits through the first seven innings. Catcher Joe Hudson extended the lead to 7-3 with what turned out to be a crucial three-run double, as the Panthers were able to plate a pair of runs in the final frame.

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Freshman Pat Connaughton picked up his first career victory, pitching 2.2 innings in relief, while Dan Slania came on for the final out, striking out Casey Roche to record his sixth save of the season.

The NCAA women's basketball tournament continued at 2:30 pm in Raleigh, N.C., as head coach Muffet McGraw's team took on St. Bonaventure in the Sweet Sixteen. After a dominant 79-35 win against the Bonnies, it's now "3 down, 3 to go" in the quest for a national championship.

Natalie Novosel had 16 points, Kayla McBride scored 10, and Kaila Turner added 14 off the bench to lead a balanced offensive attack. The Irish take on Maryland on Tuesday as they seek to earn a spot in the Final Four for the second year in a row.

Perfect spring weather in South Bend and three big wins from Notre Dame lacrosse, baseball and women's basketball. All in all, a great Sunday afternoon for the Fighting Irish.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Great Afternoon for the Irish

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A pair of Fighting Irish teams fell behind early, but both mounted comebacks and picked up BIG EAST conference victories to stay undefeated at home this season.

The women's lacrosse team struggled early in its matchup with Louisville, falling behind 5-1, before rattling off nine straight goals on its way to a 13-11 victory in the BIG EAST debut for first-year head coach Christine Halfpenny.

The Fighting Irish improved to 7-0 in their return to Arlotta Stadium, after nearly a month away from home. Lindsay Powell led the offensive attack with four goals, while Maggie Tamasitis added a hat trick.

Next door, the Notre Dame baseball team also fell into an early 2-0 hole, but plated three runs in the home half of the first inning. Joe Hudson knocked a two-run single, before Tommy Chase executed a squeeze play to provide what turned out to be the winning run in a Saturday afternoon pitchers' duel.

Adam Norton pitched 8.1 strong innings, allowing just five hits and two runs, while striking out four. Dan Slania came on for the final two outs and after yielding back-to-back singles, centerfielder Charlie Markson made a leaping catch for the final out. Slania picked up his fifth save of the season, and the Irish improved to 14-7 with the win.

Meanwhile, it was a big day for Notre Dame football too, as the team suited up in full pads for the first time this spring. The media got a chance to watch the last few minutes of practice, paying special attention to the four Irish quarterbacks battling for the starting job - Tommy Rees, Everett Golson, Andrew Hendrix, and Gunner Kiel.

Check back later for UND.com video coverage from today's action at the LaBar Practice Fields.

It's another busy afternoon tomorrow, when the men's lacrosse team takes on Rutgers and baseball goes for the sweep against Pittsburgh. Catch both games live at 1:00 pm ET, right here on UND.com.

And don't forget, the Notre Dame women's hoops team plays St. Bonaventure for a spot in the Elite Eight at 2:30 pm ET on ESPN2.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Blog: Baseball vs. Pittsburgh

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Notre Dame returns to the diamond this afternoon for the second game in its weekend BIG EAST series against Pittsburgh.

UND.com will stream the game live, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's Irish baseball action. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Worth the Wait at Frank Eck Stadium

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What a game.

After a two-hour and one-minute rain delay at Frank Eck Stadium, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh took to the diamond for the BIG EAST opener, and it's safe to say, for a few dozen faithful fans, this one was worth sticking around for.

Irish starter Will Hudgins notched a career-high 12 strikeouts over 7.1 innings pitched, but it was rightfielder Ryan Bull who brought the late-inning drama. Leading off the bottom of the ninth, the freshman sent a Tanner Wilt pitch sailing over the right field fence to lift the Irish to a 6-5 victory over the Panthers.

It's baseball season, but basketball is still on the brain. Fortunately for us in the press box, we were able to catch some of tonight's hoops action, thanks to 'March Madness Live.'

Of course, we didn't know the Irish could provide an even more thrilling finish than the close one between Ohio and North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen.

This game was awfully reminiscent of a trip my family and I made to Fenway Park this past summer. Red Sox nation sat through a two-hour rain delay, but at the end of the night, not a single Sox fan left unhappy, as centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury won the game on a walk-off single.

What Frank Eck Stadium lacked in the attendance and national attention of The Fens, it equaled in excitement.

The highlights won't be on television, but Notre Dame's rain delay did cause a bit of a stir locally, keeping the start of the basketball game between Indiana and Kentucky off-the-air for much of the first half in the Michiana area.

In fact, radio announcer Chuck Freeby came into the press box before the Irish half of the ninth inning and said something along the lines of, "There won't be a postgame show, even when Bull hits a walk-off here."

Fortunately for IU fans (and the devoted Irish fans who stuck around), Freeby was dead-on about how the game would end. Bull came through, and crushed Wilt's second pitch of the inning over the "330" sign in right field.

In my time covering football, whether at Notre Dame or elsewhere, the media is often reminded, 'No cheering in the press box.'

Well if that etiquette exists in college baseball, it went out the window tonight. Take a look:

With the constant threat of lightning, UND.com was unable to stream the game, and unfortunately, that flip cam shot may be the only video highlight we have from tonight.

Notre Dame and Pittsburgh return to the diamond tomorrow at 2:05 pm and Sunday at 1:05 pm. As always, listen live, and weather permitting, watch the broadcast right here on UND.com.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Blog: Baseball vs. Pittsburgh

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Update: Due to the rain, today's game has been pushed back to 7:30 pm.

It's a baseball night in South Bend! Notre Dame returns to the diamond this evening to kick off a weekend BIG EAST series against Pittsburgh.

UND.com will stream the game live, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's Irish baseball action. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Chuck In the Armor - 3.22.12

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One-third of the way through the 2012 season, Notre Dame's baseball team can look in the mirror and feel pretty good. As the Irish (12-7) get ready to begin the BIG EAST season, they can also look in the mirror and see a similar Pittsburgh Panthers (10-8) club.

Notre Dame's first opponent of the conference slate bears some striking similarities to the Irish. The Panthers bat .289 as a team. The Irish hit .287. Pittsburgh has 47 extra base hits. Notre Dame has 45. Both teams have four individuals with at least 10 RBI.

Defensively, it's pretty even, too. While both squads have people playing out of their natural position, they have been fairly steady with the glove. Pittsburgh has 26 errors and a .961 fielding percentage. The Irish have committed 27 miscues, but a .963 fielding percentage. Perhaps a little underappreciated is the play of Notre Dame's middle infielders, as junior 2B Frank DeSico (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) and freshman SS Jason McMurray (West Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling Catholic H.S.) have helped the Irish turn 23 double plays, opposed to 10 by Pitt.

What may set the Irish apart in this series is pitching - and it's not necessarily starting pitching, because that too is fairly even. Notre Dame's senior RHP Will Hudgins (Richmond, Va./Douglass Freeman H.S.) leads the BIG EAST in ERA, but Pitt senior ace LHP Matt Ianazzo (who I swear is on the eight-year plan ... that kid has been there forever) is 4-0 this season. In fact, the Panther weekend starters are a combined 8-0 on the year.

So if they're 8-0, why is Pitt 10-8?  Welcome to the difference maker, known as the bullpen. Setup man Joe Harvey and closer Tanner Wilt have been the only reliable arms in Joe Jordano's pen - and even they have had their moments of getting roughed up. 

Meanwhile, the Irish bullpen has been steadily improving. Freshman RHP Matt Ternowchek (Glenmoore, Pa./Downington East H.S.) hasn't been scored on this year. Freshman RHP Cristian Torres (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif./Palos Verdes Peninsula H.S.) has posted four straight scoreless appearances. Senior LHP Ryan Richter (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph's H.S.) and senior LHP Joe Spano (Verona, N.J./Seton Hall Prep H.S.) offer two reliable lefties. Sophomore RHP Closer Dan Slania (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic H.S.) is second in the BIG EAST with four saves. Now add in the wild card of flame-throwing freshman RHP Pat Connaughton (Arlington, Mass./St. John's Prep H.S.), and there's some depth there that wasn't apparent at the beginning of the season.

The season is one-third over and second-year head coach Mik Aoki likes where his team stands.  Not many Irish fans would have expected a team with 19 freshmen and sophomores to be 12-7 entering league play, especially with a pre-conference schedule that included Purdue (14-3), Texas State (14-6), LSU (17-4) and Indiana State (17-4) - all of whom are ranked in the top 25 of one of the four major polls.  The 2012 Irish appear to be a team in every sense of the word. They have good chemistry, focus and drive.

Can they drive towards a BIG EAST title? We'll see in the coming weeks, but the time to look in the mirror is over. It's time to look out the windshield at what can be accomplished.

-- Chuck Freeby ('86), Notre Dame baseball play-by-play man

DeSico Leads Irish to 8-1 Win

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Another day, another great night for baseball in South Bend.

Notre Dame returned to the diamond on Wednesday afternoon for its second home game of the season, welcoming Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne, better known as IPFW, to town.

It's hard to even describe how perfect the weather has been at this point in the spring, which really only started yesterday. After playing its first seventeen games in Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Louisiana, Notre Dame opened its home slate this week, greeted by back-to-back days of 80s and sunshine.

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The Mastodons took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Fighting Irish scored eight unanswered runs to roll to their 12th victory of the season.

Junior righty Patrick Veerkamp allowed five hits and one run, striking out four in five innings. Relievers Matt Ternowchek, Cristian Torres, Joe Spano and Dan Slania combined for four innings of two-hit ball to seal Veerkamp's second victory of the year.

2B Frank DeSico had a huge afternoon at the plate for Notre Dame, beginning in the second inning, when he tied the game on an RBI single.

Notre Dame got a one-out double from CF Charlie Markson in the bottom of the fourth and a walk from SS Jason McMurray, before DeSico connected on a big two-run double. 3B Eric Jagielo followed with another double for Notre Dame, making it 4-1.

The Irish plated another run in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a throwing error on LF Connor Biggio's infield single, allowing C Alex Carter to score.

Biggio ripped his third hit of the game in the bottom of the seventh, knocking in Markson to provide some extra insurance. DeSico followed with a double, scoring two more and giving him his fourth and fifth RBI of the day.

Notre Dame improves to 12-7 with the win and will host Pittsburgh in the first BIG EAST series of the season this weekend. The games will be played at 5:35, 2:05 and 1:05 pm, Friday through Sunday, respectively. Catch all three live on UND.com. Check back later this evening for full stats and a recap of tonight's victory.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Baseball vs. IPFW

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It's a baseball night in South Bend!

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's Irish baseball action in the game against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

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