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Baseball: Big inning ‘bonanza’

Chris Allen | Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For the majority of the current season, Irish coach Mik Aoki has called for his team to produce at the plate in timely situations. He got his wish Tuesday night, even if it was only for one inning.

Notre Dame (10-12-1) scored three runs on four consecutive hits in its half of the sixth inning and sophomore starting pitcher Adam Norton (1-1) made the lead stand up with seven innings of two-run ball, as the Irish took down Central Michigan (9-16) 3-2.

Norton and Central Michigan starter Bryce Morrow started the contest tossing up zeros, as both teams struggled to get much going in the first five innings. Norton was the beneficiary of two double plays started by senior third baseman Greg Sherry to help the right-hander get out of a couple early jams.

Aoki said the ground ball out is a big part of Norton’s game.

“Every once in a while he shows a little bit of velocity with his four-seam,” Aoki said. “But he uses that two-seam to get under the barrel a little bit against right-handers. Thankfully today, those balls on the pull side found some gloves.”

Notre Dame finally broke through against Morrow in the sixth with a rally started by the middle of the order. Freshman center fielder Jagielo opened the inning with a double, and fellow freshman Trey Mancini drove him in with a single. Mancini advanced to second on the throw home, and senior left fielder Matt Grosso made the extra base count with a single to put the Irish up two.

Senior right fielder Herman Petzold, who went three-for-three on the day, capped the rally with a double to round out the Irish scoring. Aoki said he was pleased with the offense in the frame.

“That’s what you need,” he said. “We had some other opportunities to do it. I wasn’t crazy about our at-bats earlier in the game with runners in scoring position. But in the sixth inning I thought our at-bats were pretty good. The way our offense has been going, to score three runs all in one inning is an absolute bonanza.”

Central Michigan cut into the lead with a two-run home run from junior first baseman Nate Theunissen in the top of the seventh. Norton eventually gave way to the bullpen, and junior Will Hudgins preserved the lead with a scoreless eighth.

Freshman closer Dan Slania ran into trouble in the ninth, as the Chippewas opened the frame with a triple and a walk. Slania fought back with two consecutive strikeouts and completed the save on a soft groundout to senior shortstop Mick Doyle.

“That [save] was huge,” Aoki said. “I thought Danny taking out those two guys by himself to get two outs was great, I thought [sophomore catcher Joe Hudson] made a great block on that slider that Slania buried to strike someone out. Then the play to end the game was not a routine play either that Doyle made, so I thought that was really good.”

I thought our team showed a little resiliency and toughness there, and it was nice to see that.”

The Irish return to action this weekend when they travel to Pittsburgh, Pa., to take on the Panthers (13-9, 1-2) in a Big East weekend series.