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Lorton: Notre Dame will contend if they remain consistent (Feb. 20)

Isaac Lorton | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

 

The Irish got off to a great start to the season and will be a Big East title contender – if they remain consistent for every game.

Last weekend, the Irish traveled to Sarasota, Fla., to compete in the Snowbird Classic, where they took on Florida Gulf Coast, Ohio State and Mercer. 

In Friday’s first matchup against the Eagles, Notre Dame was down early, trailing 4-0 by the middle of the third inning. But Notre Dame responded, slowly chipping away at Florida Gulf Coast’s lead. Following the third, the score was 4-1, and after the fourth the Irish had pulled within one to make the game 4-3. The Irish allowed a run in the fifth and going into the bottom of the ninth, they trailed 5-3. Still, they remained within striking distance. It is important that Notre Dame responded quickly, even if it was only one run, because getting far down early could have easily shut down the Irish mental game. Especially early in the season, it is good to see the Irish battle back from a deficit. It is even better to see the Notre Dame’s marquee players come through when most needed.  

In the bottom of the ninth, senior outfielder and co-captain Charlie Markson hit a one-out single to center field that brought junior third baseman and All-American candidate Eric Jagielo to the plate as the tying run. Jagielo lived up to his reputation by hitting a monster 400-foot two-run homer to deep center to tie the game and take the contest to extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, after freshman James Nevant led off with a key walk, freshman Lane Richards laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that advanced freshman pinch runner Kyle Richardson into scoring position. Senior second baseman and co-captain Frank DeSico was next to step into the batter’s box. DeSico was 0-for-4 on the day, but when his team was in a position to win he seized the opportunity with his first walk-off career single to right field to complete Notre Dame’s comeback win 6-5. 

It may be early on, but the determination the Irish displayed is a good sign. Notre Dame played small ball as a team, scratching and clawing to get back in the game, and then was able to rely upon its leader to seal the deal. 

The Irish carried this momentum to Friday’s second game, where they routed Ohio State 13-3. Senior pitcher Adam Norton tossed seven innings, gave up three earned runs, collected four strikeouts and gave up zero walks. The offense did not disappoint in the game with the Buckeyes, either. DeSico went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and four runs, leading the Irish to a total of 16 hits during the game. Jagielo followed suit and went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and five RBIs to go with a three-run home run. Sophomore designated hitter Ryan Bull contributed three hits as well. DeSico, Jagielo and Bull went 16-for-28 at the dish where they racked up 10 RBIs, eight runs and three home runs during Friday’s doubleheader. It was the first time Notre Dame has swept an opening day doubleheader since 1992. If Notre Dame can have solid outings like this weekend’s series all year, it will have the offense to compete in every game.  The Irish seem capable of great things this season.  

But then the championship game against Mercer happened Saturday. 

Maybe it was the hangover from the extra-inning win and the huge win over Ohio, or maybe it was fatigue, but the Irish underwhelmed against Mercer.

The Irish are going to have to remain consistent in order to win this year. Before the season Irish coach Mik Aoki stressed that the team needs to win the games they are supposed to win in order to succeed – and this game was one of them.  

The Irish got to an early one-run lead in the first, but trailed the rest of the game after Mercer made the score 3-1. Notre Dame had to come back from a 5-2 deficit going into the seventh, but was unable to make another comeback and lost the championship 5-4. 

Maybe I am looking too much into the final loss, because the Irish still won the weekend’s series.  Winning every three-game series will put the Irish right where they need to be – the Big East playoffs.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.