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Baseball: Red Storm win series behind strong pitching

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, April 30, 2012

The Irish lost an early lead against St. John’s in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader and never recovered, losing both Friday games by the score 6-4 and dropping Sunday’s decision, 3-1.

Although the two games of Friday’s doubleheader ended with identical scores, the Irish (22-20, 9-9 Big East) found opposite ways of getting there.

Notre Dame jumped out to the lead in the first game, as junior second baseman Frank DeSico and sophomore first baseman Trey Mancini scored on a wild pitch and a bunt single, respectively, in the first inning.

Senior righthander Will Hudgins (3-2) went 8.2 innings and gave up just one earned run in the longest outing of his career, but most of the damage came as a result of the team’s five defensive errors. The first two came in the top of the sixth, when Mancini and DeSico committed two errors in one play, allowing freshman designated hitter Zach Lauricella to score the first run for the Red Storm (28-16, 14-4)

St. John’s grabbed a one-run lead in the seventh, as sophomore first baseman Frank Schwindel doubled and scored on a single, and junior left fielder Jeremy Baltz scored an unearned run after advancing on a throwing error by Irish junior center fielder Charlie Markson. The Red Storm added three more unearned runs in the ninth, initiated with a throwing error by senior third baseman Tommy Chase.

The Irish took back a run in the eighth inning with an RBI single from senior right fielder Alex Robinson. Freshman left fielder Mac Hudgins led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple and scored on a single from freshman shortstop Jason McMurray, but junior catcher Joe Hudson hit a fly ball out to left field with the bases loaded to end the game.

While the Irish gave up a lead in the first game, they never had control of the second, as junior righthander Adam Norton (3-3) was rocked for four runs in the first inning.

“Norty didn’t pitch great,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “He just didn’t have his best stuff, so unfortunately that’s two weeks in a row.”

The Irish got one back in the bottom of the inning when a Mancini groundout scored freshman designated hitter Ryan Bull from third.

The Red Storm scored two more in the top of the fifth, and despite a home run from sophomore third baseman Eric Jagielo in the bottom of that frame and additional runs in both the seventh and eighth, the Irish suffered their second loss of the day.

After the losses, Aoki gave credit to the St. John’s pitchers, who kept Irish hitters off-balance all night.

“That’s what those kinds of [pitchers] do,” Aoki said. “None of them are very overpowering with velocity or anything. They try to keep you off-balance and they did a good job. Had we gotten a timely hit here and there, we probably still would have won that game.”

There were some bright spots for the Irish, including the performance from McMurray, who went 4-for-8 with a run and an RBI while hitting ninth in both games.

“I thought Jason played his best day in an Irish uniform, without any question,” Aoki said. “He played well start to finish. I thought he did a great job.”

The story wasn’t much different Sunday. The Red Storm scored a run apiece in the third, fourth and fifth innings, the last of which occurred without a single St. John’s hit.

The Irish put runners in scoring position in five innings, but they only scratched out one run, a sacrifice bunt from DeSico that plated Markson in the seventh.

Aoki said the score was more a testament to St. John’s starter Kyle Hansen, a right-handed junior, than an indictment of the Irish lineup, which went 6-for-30 with runners in scoring position over the weekend.

“He’s going to be a decent draft [pick] for a reason,” Aoki said. “By and large, I didn’t think our at-bats were all that bad against him.”

Aoki said the Red Storm demonstrated a knack for pulling wins out of close games.

“We didn’t get the hits when we needed to, they got the hits when they needed to. We didn’t defend it well enough when we needed to, and they defended it well enough,” Aoki said. “They won the critical moments.”

The Irish will look to rebound against Butler at Frank Eck Stadium at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu