March 31, 2012
TAMPA - Notre Dame rallied from a 4-1 deficit to draw even, 4-4, in the top of the sixth inning, but USF answered with two runs in the sixth and five more in the seventh en route to an 11-5 victory Saturday night at USF Baseball Stadium. The series between the Irish and Bulls is now even at one game apiece.
Notre Dame dropped to 16-9 overall and 4-1 in the BIG EAST, while USF improved to 19-9 and 4-1.
Irish junior RHP Adam Norton (Highland, Ind./Andrean H.S.) was charged with the loss and dropped to 3-2 on the year. He was touched up for six runs, four earned, on nine hits in 5.2 innings of work. Norton struck out two and walked one (just his third of 2012).
Bulls RHP Joey Lovecchio improved to 6-0 with the victory. The right-handed hurler scattered eight hits and four runs, two earned, in 6.2 innings. He struck out three and issued one walk.
Sophomore 3B Eric Jagielo (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove North H.S.) went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBI. The round tripper was his team-best fifth of the season. Junior 2B Frank DeSico (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.), junior C Joe Hudson (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Jesuit H.S.) and sophomore 1B Trey Mancini (Winter Haven, Fla./Winter Haven H.S.) all had multi-hit games.
Chad Taylor paced the 14-hit USF attack with three knocks. Three other players had at least two hits, including Luis Llerena, who went 2-for-3 with a couple runs scored and three RBI.
USF grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning thanks in part to an error from Irish SS Jason McMurray (West Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling Catholic H.S.). Zac Gilcrease opened the frame with a double down the left field line off the glove of a charging Conor Biggio (Houston, Texas/St. Thomas H.S.) in left field. After a USF ground out, Norton got another routine ground ball, but McMurray was not able to field the ball cleanly and then threw a one-hopper to first base.
The Bulls then bunted to move the trail base runner into scoring position for Alex Mendez, who pulled a seeing-eye single through the right side of the infield. DeSico had a beat on the slow roller, but the ball took a funny hop over his glove when lounging into short right field.
Lovecchio retired the first six Notre Dame batters until senior RF Alex Robinson (Dallas, Texas/First Baptist Academy) opened the top of the third with a bullet to right center field. Robinson was thinking double the entire way, but Taylor fielded the ball in right centerfield, turned and threw a strike to second base to get Robinson by a step.
Junior CF Charlie Markson (Whitefish Bay, Wisc./Whitefish Bay H.S.) followed with a double to nearly the exact same spot of right centerfield, but managed to beat Taylor's throw to second. Lovecchio evaded any damage after inducing a ground out from McMurray and a strikeout of Biggio.
Notre Dame got on the board in the top of the fifth inning. Hudson ripped a single to centerfield, freshman DH Ryan Bull (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie H.S.) followed with a walk and Robinson executed a sacrifice bunt to move both Hudson and Bull into scoring position. Markson followed with an RBI ground out to cut the USF lead to 3-1. Lovecchio got McMurray to fly out to end the inning.
USF and specifically Daniel Rockold answered the Irish tally in the bottom of the fifth. Rockold hammered a solo home run deep over the left field wall to give the Bulls a 4-1 advantage.
Notre Dame drew even in the top of the sixth inning with three runs, two coming off the bat of Jagielo. The Irish 3B belted a two-run bomb ¬over the centerfield wall. Mancini followed with a double and Hudson then singled to put runners on the corners with one out for Bull, who lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to square the game, 4-4.
The Bulls answered with a little two-out magic in the home half of the sixth. Llerena pulled an RBI single just inside the third base bag to plate Longley, who yanked a one-out double just past a diving Jagielo inside the third base bag two batters earlier.
With USF now leading, 5-4, Norton was pulled in favor of senior LHP Joe Spano (Verona, N.J./Seton Hall Prep). After a passed ball and walk, freshman Matt Ternowchek (Glenmoore, Pa./Downington East H.S.) relieved Spano and surrendered an RBI single back up the middle off the bat of Taylor that pushed the Bulls lead to 6-4.
Richter (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph's H.S.) - the fifth Irish pitcher of the inning - got a fly out to end the inning.
Notre Dame mounted a threat in its half of the seventh inning. Markson reached on an error, but was forced out following a spectacular 6-4-3 twin killing. McMurray hit a grounder sharply up the middle, but Kyle Teaf ranged behind the second base bag and flipped the ball with his glove hand to start the double play.
Biggio followed with a single to end the day for Lovecchio and DeSico greeted Nick Gonzalez with a single back up the box, but the USF southpaw got Jagielo to ground out to keep the Irish deficit two runs, 6-4.
USF blew the game opened with a five-run seventh inning. Falla had an RBI double, Llerena collected a two-run double, another run scored on a wild pitch and Mendez closed the scoring with a sacrifice fly to make it 11-4.
Notre Dame did plate a couple of meaningless runs in the eighth and ninth inning to close the scoring, 11-6.
Sophomore RHP Sean Fitzgerald (McLean, Va./McLean H.S.) will take the mound for Irish in the series finale.
Notre Dame returns to the diamond for the final game of the series with USF at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. In-game updates will be available on Twitter at @NDBaseball and Facebook at NDBaseball, and fans can listen to all the action locally on 103.1 FM and on the Internet at UND.com.