May 18, 2012
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. - Four Notre Dame hurlers combined on a seven-hit shutout to lead the Irish to a 4-0 victory over Connecticut Friday night at New Britain Stadium. Notre Dame improved to 29-24 overall and more importantly 14-12 in the BIG EAST, while the Huskies dropped to 28-25-1 and 15-11.
The Irish sit one game behind both Connecticut and Rutgers for fifth place in the league standings with one game left in the regular season. Notre Dame would earn the fifth seed in next week's BIG EAST tournament with a victory combined with a Scarlet Knights loss.
Sophomore RHP Sean Fitzgerald picked up the victory out of the Irish bullpen with 3.0 scoreless innings of relief. He improved to 7-3 on the season. Fitzgerald retired nine of 11 batters he faced over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He allowed a pair of hits, one of which was a bunt single, but also mixed in a trio of strikeouts.
Sophomore RHP Dan Slania worked out of a jam in the eighth inning with the tying run on base and cruised through the ninth to pick up his 12th save of the year. Slania struck out three of the five batters he faced. The 12 saves lead the BIG EAST and are the most by an Irish pitcher since Kyle Weiland had a school record 16 in 2006.
Junior 2B Frank DeSico, who entered the day 2-for-22 in his career against the Huskies, came through with a three-hit affair. He went 3-for-5 with an RBI single in the fourth and a two-run double in the ninth. Senior SS Tommy Chase added a sacrifice fly in the fourth as well.
Senior LHP Steve Sabatino was also dynamite out of the Notre Dame bullpen. The southpaw worked a scoreless 1.2 innings of work. He collected a pair of strikeouts.
The Irish bullpen has not allowed an earned run in their last 18.2 innings of BIG EAST action, including 10.0 shutout innings this weekend against the Huskies.
Freshman RHP Pat Connaughton, working on a pitch count, kept the Huskies at bay over his 3.0 innings of work. He surrendered three hits and issued a pair of walks, but also picked up a pair of strikeouts.
Connecticut broke up a scoreless game with a pair of runs in the fourth inning yesterday and the Irish did the same tonight. Senior RF Alex Robinson led off the frame with a single and scampered to third base on freshman LF Mac Hudgins' double off the left field wall.
With one out and runners on second and third, Chase battled back from an 0-2 count and came through with a sacrifice fly to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. UConn starter Anthony Marzi quickly jumped ahead of DeSico 0-2 again, but left a slider out over the middle of the plate and the Notre Dame junior pulled it into the hole between second and third base to push the Irish lead to 2-0.
After keeping the Irish lead 2-0, Fitzgerald opened the seventh (his fourth inning of work) with a walk. Sabatino came on and picked up back-to-back strikeouts looking and then induced a ground ball fielder's choice to end the inning.
Connecticut did threaten in the home half of the eighth inning, but Slania picked up a critical strikeout to end the inning with the tying run on base.
Marzi dropped to 2-8 on the year despite another quality outing. The southpaw allowed just a pair of runs, both earned, on six hits in 6.0 innings. Marzi struck out four and walked one. Connecticut has scored a grand total of three runs in Marzi's eight defeats.
Notre Dame returns to action against the Huskies at 11 a.m. Saturday at J.O. Christian Field. Junior RHP Adam Norton will take the mound for the Irish. 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.