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Baseball: Bats quiet in close defeat

Chris Masoud | Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Michigan left fielder Coley Crank lived up to his namesake Tuesday, belting a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Michigan a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame.

The narrow margin of victory marks the second time in two years Notre Dame has fallen to the Wolverines on the road by one run.

“Certainly we had a couple of opportunities we weren’t able to take advantage of,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “[Freshman reliever] Sean [Fitzgerald] made one bad pitch, the kid made a good swing on it and hit it out of the park. I thought our kids did a good job in terms of competing. It was just one of those tight games.”

Notre Dame (16-22-1, 7-10 Big East) failed to capitalize on a solid pitching performance from sophomore right-hander Adam Norton, who tossed six innings, struck out seven batters and allowed only one earned run. Fitzgerald yielded the long ball to Crank, who notched his team-leading sixth home run of the season.

While Aoki gave credit to Michigan starter Matt Broder for subduing the Irish offense, he added that Norton pitched just as well.

“Broder did a good job,” Aoki said. “I think he pitched the best game that he’s pitched all-year long against us. Certainly give him some credit. [Norton] did a really good job in a couple situations where he was able to prevent Michigan from scoring. They made one more play than we did.”

The Irish squandered an excellent scoring chance in the top half of the seventh when freshman first baseman Trey Mancini led off the inning with a double. However, he was picked off at second base by Michigan catcher Cole Martin after straying too far off the bag in a sacrifice bunt attempt by junior centerfielder Alex Robinson.

“I think [Mancini] assumed the ball was going to get put down instead of seeing it down,” Aoki said. “He wanted to make sure that once the ball was put down that he was going to get a good enough jump to get to third base. It’s just a mistake where maybe he wanted to make a play.”

Notre Dame fell quietly in the ninth inning, as Michigan reliever Tyler Mills set the Irish down in order.

Aoki’s squad takes on the Wolverines (14-28, 6-9 Big Ten) again tonight with a chance to even the series with a victory at home. The Irish skipper said he will be looking for his players to erase Tuesday’s loss from their memories and rebound with a focused effort, unlike last season when the Irish dropped the second game of a home-and-home series against Michigan 13-1.

“Last year we came up here and lost a tight ballgame and the next day we absolutely handed it to them,” Aoki said. “I’m more concerned our kids are locked in and we do a go a good job of competing. Hopefully we’re able to scrap together tomorrow and come out with a better outcome.”