April 7, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - With the opportunity to sweep a BIG EAST opponent, the University of Notre Dame was victimized by a pair of Villanova crooked innings as the Wildcats (9-21, 1-5 BIG EAST) batted around twice on their way to a 10-6 win over the No. 20 Fighting Irish (19-10, 4-5) Sunday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium. The triumph for Villanova marked its first in 20 all-time games on the Notre Dame campus.
For the second time in the series, the Notre Dame pitching staff, which entered the weekend first in the BIG EAST and ninth in the NCAA in fewest walks per nine innings, was uncharacteristically wild. The Irish issued eight free passes and hit a batter. Six of those walks came around to score for the Wildcats.
"I don't know if we decided to pitch away from contact, but we certainly weren't very good [locating our pitches]," third-year head coach Mik Aoki said. "We created a ton of offense for them. Hopefully it's just a funky three-game stretch and we get better."
Notre Dame walked only 59 batters over its first 26 games, but the Irish issued 19 in the three-game series with Villanova. Notre Dame had walked just 24 over its last 11 games entering the series.
Wildcat starting pitcher Josh Harris (3-4) allowed five earned runs on eight hits, but tossed 8.0+ innings while throwing 134 pitches. The southpaw struck out two and walked two.
Irish sophomore RHP Matt Ternowchek (4-1) suffered his first loss of the season in his second start. Entering the game with a 2.13 ERA and just four walks in 25.1 innings, the right-handed hurler was not able to escape the second inning.
Ternowchek struggled to find the strike zone, fell victim to a bad hop single as the Wildcats batted around and scored four runs in the top of the second inning. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. Then, with one out, Ternowchek walked Connor Jones to plate the Wildcats' first run.
With the bases still loaded, Eric Lowe rolled a tailor-made, inning-ending double play ball to freshman SS Lane Richards, but the ball skipped above Richards' head for an infield RBI single. Ternowchek then walked home the third run of the frame before Tyler Sciacca lifted a sacrifice fly to right to close the scoring. Freshman LHP Zak Kutsulis relieved Ternowchek and struck out Steve Schrenk to end the inning.
Then, with a 5-3 lead in the seventh, the Wildcats put the game out of reach with five runs, all scored with two out. Villanova loaded the bases without the benefit of a hit. Freshman RHP Nick McCarty hit Sciacca and walked Max Beermann with two out.
Junior RHP Sean Fitzgerald entered but could not record an out. He walked Cialone to load the bases. Kevin Jewitt beat out a slow roller to short to increase the lead to 6-3. Jones provided the knockout hit as he ripped a bases clearing, three-run triple to deep right. Lowe followed with an RBI single to center to increase the lead to 10-3.
Sophomore RF Ryan Bull provided one of the few bright spots for the Irish. He went 3-for-4 with a career-best five RBI. Bull collected seven RBI in the series and upped his total for the season to 16.
Freshman RHP Connor Hale and Kutsulis pitched effectively out of the Notre Dame bullpen. Hale tossed 2.1 scoreless innings of relief with a pair of strikeouts and no walks. He retired seven of the eight batters he faced and the only Villanova hitter that reached base came via an error. Kutsulis allowed a run on one hit in 3.1 innings of relief. He fanned three and walked one.
The bottom of the Irish order sparked a three-run rally in the third inning as senior CF Charlie Markson laced a double down the left field line before junior C Forrest Johnson singled. Senior 2B Frank Desico then bunted for a single to score Markson. With two out, Mancini was intentionally walked to load the bases. Bull subsequently stroked a two-run single to center to cut the deficit to 4-3.
"It's really important that you provide protection for Jagielo and Mancini," Aoki said. "Everybody obviously knows who they are, so opposing coaches want guys other than those two to beat them, and Bull did that today."
A leadoff walk by Kutsulis came back to haunt the Irish in the fifth. With two out, Cialone drilled an RBI double off the wall in left-center to increase the Wildcats' lead to 5-3.
Bull continued his impressive day in the seventh when he laced the third straight hit of the inning for an RBI single. However, Harris avoided further damage when sophomore DH Phil Mosey popped out to keep the score at 10-4.
The Irish mounted a rally in the ninth inning against the Villanova bullpen as Bull again delivered a two-run single to cut the deficit to 10-6. With runners at on the corners and one out, Wildcats relief pitcher Chris Haggarty settled down to retire Mosey and sophomore SS Kevin DeFillipis to end the game.
The Irish continue their seven-game home stand at Frank Eck Stadium when they host Michigan at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday.