May 15, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Behind seven shutout innings from junior righty Pat Connaughton and some timely hitting from the Irish bats, the University of Notre Dame baseball team continued its winning ways Thursday night at Frank Eck Stadium with a 3-0 victory over Atlantic Coast Conference foe Pittsburgh.
Connaughton (3-5), who pitched his sixth-consecutive game where he went at least 6.2 innings, turned in another dandy Thursday night as he gave up only four hits in shutting out the Panther bats for seven frames. He also struck out four and walked four in 116 pitches.
"This was a game where I was able to throw my off speed for some strikes and I think that's a big thing for me moving forward," said Connaughton.
"Like he always does, Pat battled and his fastball - when it's down in the zone and located well - is pretty dominating," said head coach Mik Aoki. "I thought he did a really good job in giving us a chance to win by shutting them out through seven innings. It takes him a little bit of time to get the repetitions he needs (after basketball season), but I think he has been pretty darn good the last month and a half or so. He has been in the strike zone and competing hard to give us a chance to win."
A couple of keys innings from Connaughton and reliever Donnie Hissa helped propel the Irish to victory. In the seventh, back-to-back singles with two outs brought the go-ahead run to the plate for the Panthers. With pinch hitter Tyler Albert at the plate, a grounder to second base led to a force out and got the Irish out of the jam.
One inning later, back-to-back walks to start the frame opened the door for Hissa to come in and help Notre Dame out of a pinch. The senior from Iron River, Wis., did just that as he induced a 6-3 double play and then a strike out to end another Panther scoring threat.
Hissa then returned in the ninth and picked up his team-high fourth save of the year, with all four coming in the season's last month. In two innings of work, Hissa struck out two and gave up just one hit.
The shutout was the third on the year for the Irish pitching staff as they also blanked Robert Morris (IL) and Boston College earlier in the campaign.
Notre Dame's offense didn't rack up a ton of hits with seven, but when the Irish needed a big hit, the offense came through. In the second inning, Pitt miscues kept the Irish frame alive and ultimately led to two runs. With one out, catcher Forrest Johnson struck out but reached base on a wild pitch. After a fly out, Johnson advanced to second on another wild pitch and then scored as third baseman Phil Mosey reached on a fielding error by right fielder Casey Roche as he was battling the sun. Leading 1-0, sophomore Kyle Richardson stepped to the plate and promptly knocked a base hit through the right side to score Mosey from second and up the Irish lead to 2-0.
In the eighth, Johnson added to the lead with an RBI single that scored freshman Cavan Biggio and upped the advantage to 3-0. Biggio reached base on a single and then advanced to second on a Robert Youngdahl single. For Biggio the single was his second hit of the day as he also tallied a two-out triple in the fifth inning. Five of the first six Irish batters in the lineup recorded a hit with Biggio tallying the only two-hit day for the team to up his average to .250 on the year.
Pittsburgh pitcher T.J. Zeuch (2-6) was handed the complete-game loss as he gave up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and one walk. He also struck out five on 112 pitches.
The Irish (20-31, 7-21 ACC) and the Panthers (22-28, 11-17 ACC) continue their series at 5:35 p.m. Friday night. Notre Dame's three seniors - Sean Fitzgerald, Donnie Hissa and Forrest Johnson - will be honored in a pre-game ceremony beginning at 5:17 p.m. Tickets are still available for Senior Night as well as the season finale Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.). Fans that can't make the game can watch the ceremony and game through WatchND.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director