Aoki Postgame Interview
CLEARWATER, Fla. -
Senior RHP Cole Johnson has been hamstrung all season by lack of run support. Well, if a pitcher refuses to give up any runs, he can't lose and that's exactly what Johnson did in a 1-0 shutout victory of West Virginia in an elimination game at the 2011 BIG EAST Tournament on Friday at Bright House Field.
Notre Dame improves to 23-28-1 and advances to another elimination game at 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday against the loser of tonight's Seton Hall and UConn matchup.
Johnson, who improved to 5-7 on the year, tossed 8.0 shutout innings and limited the potent West Virginia lineup to just three base hits, two of which were singles. He struck out seven and walked three. Johnson collected his 11th quality start of the season, which not only equals fellow senior RHP Brian Dupra for the most on the team, but also equals the total amount of the entire Irish pitching staff in 2010.
Freshman RHP Dan Slania tossed a scoreless ninth inning to register his fourth save of the year. Slania did allow a one-out single to Grant Buckner in the ninth, but completely overmatched Jeremy Gum. Slania blew three consecutive fastballs right past the all-BIG EAST first team selection. He then got Chris Rasky to fly out to centerfield to end the game.
Notre Dame became the first team to shutout West Virginia in BIG EAST tournament history. The Mountaineers had not been blanked in their previous 28 all-time games in the tournament.
The Irish also played in just the third 1-0 BIG EAST tournament game in the 27-year history of the event and first since 2000. Notre Dame had not registered a shutout in postseason play since the 2006 BIG EAST Tournament Championship victory over Louisville (7-0).
It was Notre Dame's school-record 20th one-run game of the season as the Irish improved to 10-10 in those contests.
Andy Berry deserved a better fate, but was saddled with the loss nonetheless. He did not allow an earned run in 8.0 innings - his second complete game against the Irish in as many starts in 2010. Berry, who tossed a complete-game, three-hit and one-run outing back on April 17, limited Notre Dame to seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
Notre Dame scored the game's only run in the bottom of the second inning and West Virginia's defense played an instrumental role. With sophomore DH Adam Norton at second base and sophomore C Joe Hudson at first base with two outs (both reached on singles earlier in the inning), senior SS Mick Doyle hit a slow chopper to Mountaineers' 3B Justin McDavid. He fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw pulled West Virginia 1B Gum off the bag. Doyle was ruled safe and Norton kept on running and scored ahead of Gum's throw to give the Irish a 1-0 advantage.
Johnson made the 1-0 lead stand the rest of the day. He allowed just two Mountaineer base runners into scoring position over the first eight innings, including just one after Gum's second inning leadoff double. Johnson did issue one-out walks in the fourth and seventh, but followed each free pass with a double-play ground out. In fact, Johnson retired the final five Mountaineers after the seventh inning twin killing.
Norton was the only Irish player with more than one hit. He went 2-for-3 with a run scored.
The shutout was the seventh on the year for Notre Dame - the most by an Irish staff since 2001. In fact, Notre Dame has not posted more shutouts in a single season since 1996 when the Irish recorded nine.
Notre Dame and UConn/Seton Hall can be heard in South Bend on WHME / Harvest 103.1 FM and around the world at UND.com. Senior RHP Todd Miller will start for the Irish.
As always, please visit UND.com regularly for full coverage of all Notre Dame athletics news and events.
-- ND --