BATON ROUGE, La. - Sophomore Sean Fitzgerald picked college baseball's biggest regular season stage - Alex Box Stadium - for the best outing of his collegiate career. The right-handed hurler allowed just one run in 8.0 innings to help Notre Dame knock off No. 11 LSU, 7-1, Sunday afternoon in front of a paid crowd of 10,347. The Irish improved to 7-5 on the season, while the Tigers dropped to 13-3 and saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end.
Notre Dame has not defeated a higher-ranked opponent since its victory over No. 7 Nebraska (16-6) in a seven-inning shortened game on Mar. 4, 2007. In fact, Notre Dame has not upended a higher-ranked foe on the road since capping off its historic run to Omaha with a 3-1 victory over No. 1 Florida State on June 10, 2002.
Fitzgerald (2-1) was on the mark from the opening pitch. He allowed singles in the first and third inning, but that was all LSU could muster over the first five frames. Fitzgerald faced just one batter over the minimum heading to the sixth inning.
Fitzgerald retired seven straight at one point and 13 of 14 before a leadoff single in the sixth. He was not fazed and promptly got three consecutive fly outs to end the inning.
Fitzgerald issued a meaningless two-out walk in the seventh (his only free pass of the day). He kept the potent LSU lineup off the scoreboard until the eighth inning. The Tigers, which entered today's game with a .321 batting average and scoring almost nine runs per game, did plate a run in the eighth inning on three hits, but it could have been worse.
With Tigers at second and third with one out and the Irish leading 7-1, Fitzgerald picked up back-to-back punch-outs to stop the potential rally.
Fitzgerald surrendered one earned run on six hits in a career-long outing. He struck out four and walked just one. Fitzgerald tossed 70 strikes out of his 100 offerings.
Freshman LF Conor Biggio provided a much-needed spark at the top of the Irish lineup. The rookie went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, a two-run double and a RBI single. Junior C Joe Hudson, junior RF Charlie Markson and senior CF Alex Robinson all added multi-hit games. Robinson had an RBI triple and Hudson had an RBI single.
Sophomore Dan Slania worked a scoreless ninth inning.
LSU starter Kurt McCune retired the first six Notre Dame batters before Markson opened the third inning with a single. Robinson followed with a perfect bunt single, avoiding the tag of McCune in the process. Freshman SS Jason McMurray then executed a sacrifice bunt to set the stage for Biggio, who followed with a two-run double to give the Irish a 2-0 lead.
After junior 2B Frank DeSico singled and Biggio moved to third, sophomore 3B Eric Jagielo made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly.
Notre Dame extended its lead to 5-0 in the fourth. Sophomore 1B Trey Mancini led off with a double and coasted home when Hudson's followed with an RBI single. Robinson capped off the inning with a two-out RBI triple.
The five-run cushion was more than enough for Fitzgerald, but the Irish did add a couple more runs in the seventh to grab a 7-0 advantage. Biggio, once again, was involved. He legged out an RBI infield single and scampered to second base when the throw from the LSU shortstop sailed wide of the bag.
Biggio then took off on a 3-2 offering to DeSico and swiped third base. When the pitch evaded the Tiger catcher, Biggio kept right on running and raced home.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame dropped its first game of the day. Michigan scored four runs in the seventh inning to erase a 4-1 Irish lead and the Wolverines hung on for a 6-5 win.
Michigan trailed 4-1 heading to the top of the seventh. John DiLaura led off the frame with a single and went to second on a one-out, bloop single from Cole Martin. Both runners moved up 90 feet on an Adam Norton balk (his third of the contest), and DiLaura scored on an RBI groundout by Patrick Biondi.
The Irish brought in Joe Spano, who struck out freshman Will Drake, but he reached base on a wild pitch, allowing Martin to score and cut the lead to 4-3. Michael O'Neill singled, and Brett Winger brought in the game-winning runs with another bloop single to right, giving Michigan a 5-4 advantage.
The Wolverines scored a key insurance run in the ninth. Biondi singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Drake struck out, but he again reached on a wild pitch with Biondi advancing to third. Winger came up and singled to center to score Biondi.
Notre Dame scored a run in the ninth on Mancini's single, but Alex Lakatos got Alex Carter to fly out with two on to end the game.
The Maize and Blue opened the scoring with a run in the first. Drake singled with one out and moved up on a balk. O'Neill reached on a throwing error by Notre Dame third baseman Kevin DeFilippis, putting runners on the corners. O'Neill looked to be picked off but got in a rundown, allowing Drake to score for the game's first run.
Notre Dame tied the game, 1-1, in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk and brought in three runs in the fifth on back-to-back home runs by Jagielo and Mancini.
Freshman James Bourque earned the win on the mound, giving up a hit and a run with a strikeout and two walks in 2.1 innings of work. Lakatos recorded his first save.
Spano, who gave up a pair of runs in relief, was tagged with the loss. Norton struck out seven in 6.2 innings, giving up seven hits and two earned runs.
Winger drove in three runs for Michigan, while DiLaura was 3-for-4. Biondi, Drake and Winger had two hits apiece. Jagielo was 3-for-5 to lead Notre Dame.
Notre Dame returns to action against the Tigers on Mon., Mar. 12 at 6:30 p.m. CT. In-game updates will be available on twitter at @NDBaseball and facebook at NDBaseball while fans can listen to all the action locally on 103.1 FM and on the internet at UND.com.