SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -
University of Notre Dame senior pitcher Adam Norton tossed 8.0 scoreless innings and junior All-American closer candidate Dan Slania collected his fourth save of the season as the No. 17 Fighting Irish blanked No. 20 Cal Poly, 1-0, Friday night from Baggett Stadium. Notre Dame improved to 11-5 on the year, while the Mustangs suffered their first home loss of the year and dropped to 15-3.
Norton (Highland, Ind./Andrean) was once again spectacular on the mound. The right-handed hurler kept a potent Mustang lineup off-balance all night. Norton threw 103 pitches, 76 for strikes, and scattered seven hits. He struck out five and walked only one - an unintentional-intentional free pass in the sixth inning.
Norton improved his record to 5-0 on the season and lowered his already sparkling ERA to a miniscule 1.25. He is the first Irish pitcher to pick up a victory in each of his first five starts to open a season since Aaron Heilman in 2001.
Slania (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe) recorded the 21st career save of his brilliant Notre Dame career. He now stands alone in second place on the all-time Irish career saves list with 21. Slania is now just five saves away from the school record of 25 held by Kyle Weiland (2006-08).
The victory is Notre Dame's third over a ranked opponent already this season, including triumphs over No. 25 Virginia Tech and No. 10 Oklahoma. The Irish could claim a fourth victory over a top-25 foe (Florida Gulf Coast), but the Eagles have since moved into the top 25 but were unranked at the time of the meeting with Notre Dame.
Norton and Cal Poly starter Matt Imhoff were embroiled in a pitcher's duel from the opening pitch, but both worked out of trouble all night.
Norton stranded Mustangs at third base in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings. Cal Poly's most significant threat came in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Jimmy Allen reached on an error and Nick Torres followed with a single, each out with one out, Norton induced a fly ball to right field off the bat of Thursday night's hero Brian Mundell (three-run home run was difference in 6-3 Mustangs victory). Allen scampered to third base, but PH Tim Wise lined out to deep center field to end the rally.
Notre Dame threatened to score numerous times in the game, only to see the junior lefty wriggle off the hook each time. The Irish left a pair of the base paths in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Notre Dame had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in both the sixth and eighth, but were unable to take advantage.
Imhoff did not factor in the decision, but was dominant. He allowed six hits over 7.2 innings of work and struck out a career-best 11.
The game remained scoreless until the top of the ninth inning.
Freshman SS Lane Richards (Pendleton, Ore./Pendleton) pulled a leadoff double down the left-field line and fellow rookie CF Kyle Richardson (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South) laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Richards to third base. After a shallow fly out by freshman PH Zak Kustulis (Homer Glen, Ill./ Providence Catholic) failed to score Richards, senior co-captain 2B Frank Desico (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) stroked an 0-1 pitch to the hole between shortstop and third base for an infield single that plated Richards with the go-ahead run.
The win still wouldn't come easily.
Cal Poly CF David Armendariz lined a single to center field to open the ninth inning. That was all the hard-throwing right-handed hurler would allow. Slania proceeded to use his fastball to strikeout both Chris Hoo and Peter Van Gansen, both looking. Denver Chavez, Cal Poly's leading hitter on the season, popped meekly to Irish 3B Eric Jagielo (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove North) to end the game.
Notre Dame's last 1-0 victory came almost a year to the date. The Irish defeated Kansas, 1-0, on Mar. 16, 2012 in San Antonio at the Irish Baseball Classic. Notre Dame has captured 40 games over the 120-year history of the program, including four under third-year head coach Mik Aoki. The Irish have not captured a 1-0 game on the road since Apr. 1, 1989 when Notre Dame upended Saint Louis.
Reilly suffered his first loss of the year and evened his record at 1-1.
Jagielo and sophomore LF Ryan Bull (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie) led the Irish offense with two hits apiece.
The rubber game of the series is slated for Noon PT on Saturday. Freshman RHP David Hearne (Homer Glen, Ill./Providence Catholic) throws for the Irish and will be opposed by Cal Poly RHP Bryan Granger. The game can be heard on UND.com and the pre-game show begins at 11:50 a.m. PT.
-- ND --