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Baseball: Notre Dame completes historic sweep at Tulane

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, February 25, 2013

The Irish became the first non-conference opponent to sweep Tulane at home in 16 years, beating the Green Wave by scores of 2-1, 3-1 and 8-3 in New Orleans.

But the possibility of a series sweep almost ended in its first game. Junior right-handed pitcher Dan Slania escaped from trouble in the eighth inning but loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth as the Irish clung to a 2-1 lead on Friday night. He then struck out Tulane senior first baseman Sean Potkay and got senior third baseman Garrett Cannizaro to fly out for the final out of the night.

“Obviously it’s [nerve-racking],” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “That’s part of why you’re in this thing, you enjoy those moments of competition and not knowing how things are going to turn out. But we’ve got a pretty good guy on the mound in that particular situation, so I kind of felt like the odds were with us, to be honest.”

Notre Dame senior outfielder and co-captain Charlie Markson said that Slania’s confidence extends to his fielders.

“Dan is a closer, and even when he gets in to tough situations he’s been there before, he knows how to close a game,” Markson said. “We all have confidence behind him. And he has confidence in us, he knows we’re going to make plays for him.”

Friday’s runs came courtesy of junior third baseman Eric Jagielo, who hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning with Markson on first base. The home run, the third of the season for Jagielo, secured the win for junior Sean Fitzgerald, who allowed seven hits in six-and-a-third innings and at one point retired 15 consecutive batters.

The pitching staff stole the show again on Saturday, with five hurlers combining for one run allowed on eight hits. Senior right-handed pitcher Adam Norton allowed seven hits but kept all but one base runner from scoring in five innings of work.

“I thought Norty yesterday did a really good job competing without necessarily his best stuff with him,” Aoki said.

Notre Dame took the early lead in the first inning. Senior second baseman Frank DeSico, the leadoff hitter, took a walk from Tulane senior right-hander Alex Byo, then moved to third on a steal and throwing error. Jagielo stole second base after being intentionally walked by Byo, and the two scored when sophomore outfielder Ryan Bull hit a double down the left-field line.

Notre Dame enjoyed a little bit more breathing room during Sunday’s matinee. Freshman right-hander David Hearne struggled in the start, giving up four hits and one run in two and two-thirds innings, but freshman righty Nick McCarty hurled four scoreless innings while giving up just one hit. Junior right-hander Donnie Hissa, who bridged the gap between Hearne and McCarty, was charged with the other two runs.

Bull had a career-high four hits, including a home run. The Irish manufactured a 2-0 lead in the first, as DeSico and Bull scored with a combination of walks, steals, infield singles and sacrifice flies. Sophomore outfielder Mac Hudgins collected two more RBIs with a double in the fourth. Notre Dame added two more runs in the seventh and scored their last in the eighth inning.

“Sometimes the balls you hit hard fall, sometimes they don’t, and today they were falling,” Markson said after Sunday’s game. “I don’t want to say we got luckier today but we just stayed with our approach and the ball found holes more often than in the first two games.”

Markson said the win was affirmation for a team that expects to surpass the accomplishments of past seasons.

“Obviously, it’s not like UMass gives a hoot that we swept Tulane, but I think we should allow ourselves to enjoy it,” Aoki said. “But at the end of the day we’re six games into our 56 game season, so we’d be putting the cart before the horse to think we’ve reached the pinnacle.”

The Irish will try and keep the good times rolling at the Irish Baseball Classic in Cary, N.C. next weekend. First pitch against UMass will be thrown at 3 p.m. on Friday.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu