LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Notre Dame entered the 2010 season finale needing a victory over Louisville to reach the BIG EAST conference tournament, but the Irish lost 13-3. Almost one year later to the day, Notre Dame was in the exact same scenario. The Irish erased the memory of 2010 and secured a spot in the BIG EAST tournament with a heart-stopping 2-1 victory over the Cardinals at Patterson Stadium on Saturday.
No surprise, the game was decided by a single run and went down to the final pitch. Notre Dame has now played in 19 games this season decided by the slimmest margin. The Irish are 9-10 in one-run games.
Notre Dame took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Freshman RHP Sean Fitzgerald, who came into the game with two outs in the eighth, retired the first two Cardinals. With two down, Fitzgerald induced a ground ball from Zak Wasserman that seemed destine to end the game, but sophomore 2B Frank DeSico's throw sailed wide of first base.
Wasserman reached on the error and then Fitzgerald issued a two-out walk to put the tying run in scoring position and winning run on base, but the rookie right-handed hurler got Drew Haynes to ground into a fielder's choice to end the game. DeSico fielded the grounder cleanly and flipped to senior SS Mick Doyle on the second base bag.
Fitzgerald picked up his fifth save of the year and all five have come in BIG EAST action. He tossed 1.1 hitless and scoreless innings of relief.
Fellow rookie RHP Dan Slania picked up the victory and improved to 2-3 on the year. He tossed 3.1 scoreless innings of relief. Slania allowed three hits and one walk, but got a trio of critical double plays.
Fifth-year senior RF Herman Petzold was the only Irish player with multiple hits. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Freshman 1B Trey Mancini went 1-for-3 with a run scored and senior SS Mick Doyle went 1-for-3 with an RBI single. Sophomore DH Adam Norton added a sacrifice fly.
Travis Tingle was saddled with the loss for the Cardinals. The righty allowed a pair of earned runs on five hits in 6.1 innings of work. Tingle struck out two and walked three.
Doyle gave the Irish a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Petzold opened the inning with a single and moved into scoring position following Norton's sacrifice bunt. After a ground out and walk, Doyle lined 1-0 offering from Tingle to right field to give Notre Dame the game's first lead.
Notre Dame pushed the lead to 2-0 on Norton's sacrifice fly in the top of the second inning.
Louisville and junior 2B Ryan Wright specifically cut the Irish deficit to 2-1. Wright singled home Jeff Gardner.
Wright went 9-for-11 with two home runs and five RBI in the series. Gardner went 8-for-12 on the weekend with five doubles, one home run and three RBI. The tandem combined for 11 of the Cardinals' 22 runs and 17 of their 34 hits in the series.
Senior RHP Todd Miller worked into the fifth inning. Miller allowed one run on seven hits before giving way to Slania.
With runners on the corners and one out in the Louisville fifth inning after a base hit, sacrifice bunt and bunt single, Slania induced a double play ground out from the unlikeliest of candidates, Gardner.
Wright opened the bottom of the sixth inning with a single, but Slania got a fly out and the Cade Stallings lined into a double play to end the inning.
Notre Dame got an odd and possibly favorable call on a double play in the eighth inning. Drew Haynes opened with a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield. Adam Engel then tried to execute a sacrifice bunt, but he popped it up. Irish 3B Greg Sherry appeared to bobble the pop up and dropped the ball. Sherry threw to Doyle at second base, who tagged out the runner. The umpire ruled Sherry caught the pop out and lost it on the transfer. So, when Doyle applied the tag to the base runner, he was also out.
Notre Dame opens the BIG EAST tournament against top-seed Connecticut at 8:00 p.m. ET on Wed., May 25. The game can be heard in South Bend on WHME / Harvest 103.1 FM and around the world at UND.com.
As always, please visit UND.com regularly for full coverage of all Notre Dame athletics news and events.