LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The recipe for success that led to No. 15 Notre Dame's tremendous start to the 2013 campaign disappeared this weekend in a three-game series at No. 10 Louisville. The Cardinals exploded in the late innings to secure a 10-5 victory and BIG EAST series sweep Saturday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium. Louisville improved to 22-5 and 4-2 in the BIG EAST, while Notre Dame dropped to 15-9 and 2-4.
Anthony Kidston picked up the victory and improved to 4-0 on the season. He battled control issues all afternoon, but managed to work into the sixth inning. Kidston walked six and struck out six in 5.1 innings of work. He limited the Irish to an earned run on two hits.
Sophomore RHP Pat Connaughton took the loss and dropped to 0-1 on the year. He surrendered two earned runs on three hits in 3.1 innings. Connaughton fanned two and walked three.
Kyle McGrath picked up his second save of the season and weekend. He fanned three in 1.2 scoreless innings of relief.
The bottom of the seventh inning was a microcosm of the entire series for Notre Dame. Freshman RHP Nick McCarty was one pitch away from ending the inning with the Irish trailing by just one run, but Coco Johnson ripped a two-out, two-strike RBI single to push the Cardinals lead to 3-1. Louisville followed with four straight RBI hits and just like that the Irish trailed 8-1. The Cardinals had more base hits in scoring position in that inning alone than Notre Dame had the entire weekend.
The Irish did mount a rally in the top of the eighth inning when sophomore PH Phil Mosey crushed a grand slam to cut the deficit to 8-5, but Louisville added two more runs in the bottom half of the inning, again with two outs, to close the scoring, 10-5.
Sophomore LF Mac Hudgins went 1-for-3 with an RBI double.
The Irish bullpen entered the series with a 1.49 ERA and limited their opponents to a .204 batting average. Notre Dame's foes had scored nine runs after the sixth inning over its first 21 games of the year. Louisville scored 13 runs after the sixth inning this weekend alone, including eight Saturday (all of which came with two outs). The Irish bullpen posted a 10.80 ERA in the series.
Notre Dame also struggled mightily all weekend with runners on base, especially with them in scoring position. The Irish stranded 22 on the base paths, including 15 in scoring position, and batted just .174 (4-for-23) with runners on scoring position.
Louisville grabbed a first-inning 1-0 lead for the third straight day. Adam Engel opened the game with a bounding single over the head of junior 3B Eric Jagielo, who was playing at the cut of the grass due to the threat of the bunt. After Connaughton got a strikeout, Engel swiped both second and third base, and cruised home on Johnson's sacrifice fly. Engel scored all three first-inning runs for the Cardinals in the series.
Notre Dame got a two-out single and stolen base from freshman RF Zak Kutsulis in the top of the second, but freshman SS Lane Richards struck out swinging to end the inning.
After Connaughton worked around a leadoff double in the home half of the second, the Irish finally broke through in the top of the third inning with a runner in scoring position. Junior C Forrest Johnson drew a one-out walk and stole second base. Senior 2B Frank Desico followed with a walk before Hudgins dropped an RBI double down the right field line to tie the game, 1-1. Jagielo was then intentionally walked to load the bases for junior 1B Trey Mancini, who laced a hot shot right back up the middle and appeared destined for a two-run single, but Sutton Whiting made a spectacular diving stop behind the second-base bag and started a inning-ending 6-4-3 twin killing.
Louisville regained the lead in its half of the fourth inning. Connaughton issued a leadoff walk to Coco Johnson, who came around to score on Jeff Gardner's hit-and-run RBI double. After Connaughton issued a walk that ended his outing, McCarty came into the game and got back-to-back punch-outs to escape the inning without further damage.
McCarty pulled another rabbit out of his hat to avoid damage in the bottom of the fifth. The Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs, but McCarty got a pop out and then induced an inning-ending 6-3 double play to keep the Irish deficit at one run, 2-1.
Notre Dame had another scoring opportunity in the top of the sixth inning. Kidston issued back-to-back walks before being pulled from the game, but Cody Ege and Dace Kime each came out of the Cardinals' bullpen and collected strikeouts to end the inning.
McCarty was not as fortunate in the bottom of the seventh.
Notre Dame returns to action with its Frank Eck Stadium opener at 5:35 p.m. against Tuesday.