April 27, 2013
Notre Dame, Ind. - The Notre Dame Fighting Irish rallied with a pair of runs in the eighth to wipe out a 3-2 Connecticut lead to pull off a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Huskies Saturday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium.
A run-scoring single by Trey Mancini and a swinging bunt by pinch-hitter Conor Biggio that turned into an error accounted for the two wins as the Irish won their third straight game and seventh in the last eight.
Playing what head coach Mik Aoki described as "playoff baseball" to return to the BIG EAST title and NCAA Tournament picture following a recent slump, the Irish did just that in the come-from-behind win on a sunny afternoon at Eck Stadium.
The win improved Notre Dame to 25-16 overall and 6-8 in BIG EAST play while the Huskies fall to 25-18 on the year and 8-9 in the conference.
The Irish were the beneficiary of two errors as they scored two to take the lead in the eighth. Senior 2B Frank Desico, who finished 2-for-4, led off the frame with a line-drive single to left field. DeSico, appearing in his 200th career game in an Irish uniform, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior CF Charlie Markson.
With lefthander Will Mahoney (0-2) brought in to relieve starting LHP Anthony Marzi, junior 3B Eric Jagielo's sharp ground ball to second was misplayed by Connecticut 2B LJ Mazzilli for an error, advancing DeSico to third. RHP Jordan Tabakman then faced Mancini, who laced an RBI single to right to even the score at three.
"In that situation, I think about lifting the ball to get at least a sac fly," Mancini said.
"You do best in those situations when you don't change anything from any other at bat. I think he threw a change-up and I got enough of it to get a base hit."
With two out and runners on first and third, sophomore DH Conor Biggio sent a swinging bunt in front of home plate, but the Tabakman's throw was dropped by 1B Bobby Melley. Jagielo scored on the play to give the Irish their first lead of the day.
"One of the things [Biggio] brings to the table is his ability to run, so we just wanted to see if we could ride the hot hand there," Aoki said.
"If it's somebody else running, that swinging bunt doesn't put quite as much pressure on the fielders and makes that an easier play. "
Slania then relieved Norton (9-1) in the ninth and retired three batters in 1-2-3 fashion for his tenth save of the season.
Most of the game was a low-scoring match-up between two similar pitchers in Marzi and Norton. While neither pitcher was overpowering, both tried to induce poor contact by locating strikes and working quickly. Each pitcher walked just one batter.
Norton earned the win to improve to a team-leading 9-1 with a 1.98 ERA. Marzi allowed four hits in 7.1 innings, while Norton was forced to work out of jams in his 8.0 innings as he yielded nine hits.
"[With Norton], the ball's going to be in play, usually early in the count, but not in play as firmly as it was today," Aoki said.
"While he's going to have baserunners, he limits free passes. As a result, you're going to need to get multiple hits in an inning to put up a run or crooked number."
Connecticut jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the first. An infield single by Billy Ferriter followed by a single by Mazzilli set up the scoring opportunity. With the runners on second and third and two out, Melley lofted a two-run single to center.
The Irish benefitted from a balk in the fourth to plate their first run. Jagielo was hit by a pitch with two out to end a stretch of ten straight batters retired by Marzi. Then, Mancini lined a single to right to advance Jagielo to third. On a 1-1 pitch to sophomore LF Ryan Bull, Marzi was called for a balk, scoring Jagielo.
The Huskies quickly responded with a run in the fifth to increase their lead to 3-1. Shortstop Tom Verdi lined his second home run of the season down the left field line.
Norton limited the Huskies to just three runs as he induced two timely double plays in the fourth and eighth. He also worked around errors in the third and fourth innings that put the leadoff batter on first.
The middle of the Irish order mounted another two-out rally in the sixth to cut the Huskies' lead to 3-2. Jagielo was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game before Mancini walked. Then, Bull's sinking line drive towards second skipped past Mazzilli for an RBI single.
Notre Dame looks to complete a three-game sweep of Connecticut when they host the Huskies at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday at Frank Eck Stadium.