May 11, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - In his final career start at Frank Eck Stadium, senior RHP Will Hudgins exited with a bang. He tossed his first career complete game as Notre Dame defeated Rutgers, 5-2. The Irish offense broke a 1-1 tie with a four-run sixth inning, and Hudgins did the rest, only allowing five runners to reach base while striking out eight.
With a season-high crowd of 1,113 on hand, Notre Dame (26-22, 12-10 BIG EAST) moved into a tie for sixth place in the BIG EAST with Rutgers (27-21, 12-10).
Hudgins improved to 4-2 with the victory, while Rutgers starter Tyler Gebler dropped to 2-4, as he could not escape the Irish sixth inning.
Hudgins was dominant throughout the contest as he pounded the strike zone and worked both corners of the plate against a free-swinging Rutgers squad. He did not allow more than one Rutgers base runner in any inning. The only two Scarlet Knight runs came on solo home runs, with one occurring with two outs in the ninth.
"Will was outstanding from beginning to end," Irish second-year head coach Mik Aoki said. "He only made two bad pitches all night, and, like he has all season, gave us a good chance to win the game."
Through 5.2 innings, Hudgins had retired 17 of the first 19 batters, including seven on strikeouts.
"I've been successful this year, when I've located my fastball and slider to set-up my splitter for strikeouts, and I really accomplished that tonight," Hudgins said.
But, with the Irish leading 1-0 in the top of the sixth, Nick Fravatella worked a rare 3-1 count from Hudgins and took advantage of a hanging fastball for his fifth home run of the season to tie the game.
The score did not remain deadlocked long as the Irish ripped five straight hits to erupt for a four-run sixth inning. Junior C Joe Hudson started the hit parade with a one-out, RBI double to centerfield to score sophomore 1B Trey Mancini.
On the next pitch, senior RF Alex Robinson laced an RBI double off the wall in right. Then, junior CF Charlie Markson sliced a line drive down the left-field line for the third straight RBI two-bagger to give the Irish a 4-1 lead. Markson's 17th RBI on the season chased Gebler from the contest.
"We mounted some pressure on [Gebler] prior to the sixth by putting good swings on the ball," Aoki said. "It was just a matter of time before we broke through, and we made him pay for his mistakes [in the sixth]."
Finally, freshman LF Mac Hudgins closed the Irish scoring with an RBI single to left field off of relief pitcher Dan O'Neill.
Following the Rutgers solo shot in the sixth, Hudgins retired nine of the next ten hitters. Then, with two out in the ninth, Pat Kivlehan smoked his 11th home run to left to cut the lead to 5-2. The next batter, Steve Zavala, sent a line drive into the gap, which Markson dove for and caught to end the game.
"This win means so much to me," Hudgins said. "I've had a really great career here, and I'm very thankful for my teammates. I'll remember this night forever."
In the bottom of the third, sophomore 3B Eric Jagielo slapped an opposite-field RBI double to give the Irish an early 1-0 edge. The two-out double gave Jagielo his team-leading 38th RBI and scored Mac Hudgins. However, the Irish stranded runners on second and third, when Mancini flied out to center.
Jagielo extended his streak of reaching base safely to 36 games.
Entering the contest, Hudgins (who leads the Irish staff with a 2.21 ERA) had been plagued by unearned runs due to Irish defensive miscues. In his last start against Villanova, he allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings, but only one was earned.
However, tonight, the Irish defense played errorless ball, and they improved to 23-8 when committing less than one error.
Notre Dame and Rutgers will continue their three-game series at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium. 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.