March 20, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - A home opener that started with the anticipated debut of freshman RHP Pat Connaughton (Arlington, Mass./St. John's Prep) ended in a 12-4 offensive explosion for Notre Dame against Eastern Michigan Tuesday night at Frank Eck Stadium.
The Irish improved to 11-7, with junior RHP Breck Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz./Catalina Foothills H.S.) earning his first career win (1-0), while the Eagles dropped to 5-13.
The storyline entering the game was the debut Connaughton, making his first appearance in an Irish baseball uniform following the elimination of the basketball team from the NCAA Tournament. He was limited to only 31 pitches but made the most of his 1.2 innings of work. Connaughton struck out the side in the first, primarily using his low to mid-90s fastball and mixing in a curveball.
"In the first, I couldn't catch my breath, I was so excited and pumped up," Connaughton said.
In the second, with the Irish leading 2-0, Connaughton recorded another strikeout before surrendering a hit to Jamie Simpson. He then proceeded to strikeout Matt Hitt on a high heater before being replaced by senior LHP Steve Sabatino (Lockport, Ill./Lockport H.S.).
"We want to get him consistent outings to work his pitch count up and build stamina in his arm," second year Irish coach Mik Aoki said.
However, the game was closer than the final score indicated for the first six innings.
In the fifth, the Eagles tied the game, 4-4, on a sacrifice fly and had the go-ahead runner in scoring position with two out. Eastern Michigan 3B Ben Magsig sent a sinking line drive to right, which junior RF Charlie Markson (Whitefish Bay, Wisc./Whitefish Bay H.S.) dove for and caught to end the threat.
The Irish quickly responded with two in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good. Sophomore 3B Eric Jagielo (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove North H.S.) launched the first pitch over the right-center field wall for his team-best fourth home run of the season to give the Irish a 5-4 lead. After sophomore 1B Trey Mancini (Winter Haven, Fla./Winter Haven H.S.) reached on an error, junior C Joe Hudson (Odessa, Fla./Tampa Jesuit H.S.) singled to left to advance him to third. With Markson at the plate, Hudson stole second, allowing Mancini to score on the throw.
The Irish worked out of another scoring threat in the sixth. Ashdown loaded the bases with one out and was replaced by senior LHP Ryan Richter (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph's H.S.). Richter struck out Bo Kinder and forced Brent Ohrman to ground out to second to preserve the lead. He added a scoreless seventh to finish his outing.
"We kind of lost control of the game at that point and the outcome was teetering in the balance," Aoki said. "[Richter] was a really big part of the win."
Notre Dame then exploded for six runs in the seventh to turn the game into a 12-4 rout.
The two through five hitters in the Irish lineup supplied 10 hits in the game. Jagielo went 3-for-5 with a double, home run, two RBI, three runs scored and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Hudson finished 3-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI. Mancini went 2-for-5 with a double, two RBI and three runs scored, while junior 2B Frank DeSico (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) also went 2-for-5 and scored two runs.
The Irish quickly took a 2-0 lead in the first as Mancini and Hudson lined back-to-back RBI singles to right.
After the Eagles got on the board in the third, the Irish responded with three straight doubles by DeSico, Jagielo, and Mancini to extend the lead to 4-1.
The Irish put the game out of reach in the seventh when Hudson singled home Jagielo. Senior DH Tommy Chase's (Cohasset, Mass./Boston College H.S.) bunt single was fired down the right-field line, allowing Mancini to score to make the score 8-4.
Freshman OF Conor Biggio (Houston, Texas/St. Thomas H.S.) smacked a two-run double to left center, and freshman SS Jason McMurray (West Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling Catholic H.S.) tripled home Biggio to make the score 11-4.
The other major storyline from the night was the unusually warm South Bend weather. Temperatures at first pitch were 83 degrees, which was a dramatic shift from rainy weather that cancelled the first two non-conference games in 2011.
Notre Dame returns to action with a non-conference match-up on Weds., Mar. 21 at 5:30 p.m. ET against IPFW. 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.