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Baseball: Irish glide past Michigan State at home

Mary Green | Thursday, April 25, 2013

It just took one pitch for sophomore Blaise Lezynski to contribute to Notre Dame’s offense Wednesday, as the sophomore hit the first pitch in his pinch-hit at bat over the right field wall to grab a 4-3 lead for the Irish in the seventh inning against Michigan State. 

The Irish (23-16, 4-8 Big East) never relinquished that advantage, scoring three more runs to secure a 7-3 victory over the Spartans (22-12, 5-4 Big Ten) at Frank Eck Stadium.

With sophomore left fielder Conor Biggio on first base, Lezynski stepped up to bat for junior catcher Forrest Johnson with two outs. Facing Spartans junior right-hander Chase Rihtarchik, Lezynski said he was just hoping to drive in the runner and even the score to extend the inning.

“I was just looking for a pitch to rip, a pitch to drive,” Lezynski said of his mindset entering the at-bat. “Conor’s got speed on first base, so I saw where the outfielders are playing, and I was just trying to rip one in the gap, see if maybe he could round [third base] to get home.”

Lezynski, who normally comes off the bench, said he realized the significance of each of his pinch-hit at-bats, especially in close-game situations like Wednesday’s

“[Pinch-hitting iss an opportunity,” he said. “Every time coach calls on me, I know that he’s asking me to perform in that specific place at that time. … I go in there, and I want to make everything of that opportunity.”

Freshman right-hander David Hearne picked up the win for the Irish afte, entering the game in the top of the seventh inning to relieveffreshman right-handed starter Zak Kutsulis, who left with an ailing shoulder. Rihtarchik took the loss for Michigan State.

The Spartans jumped out to an early lead, crossing the plate twice in the first inning on four singles. The Irish responded in the bottom half of the innin, when sophomore right fielder Ryan Bull drove in junior third baseman Eric Jagielo, who finished the day with three hits, two of thee doubles

Junior first baseman Trey Mancini also generated offense for Notre Dame, going r-for-r with three singles and a double.

Both teams tacked on a run apiech before Lezynski’s blasb in the seventh inning. Jagielo drove in two more runs that inning on one of his doubles, and senior center fielder Charlie Markson contributed Notre Dame’s last run with his sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.

Junior right-hander Dan Slania, who was recently named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association”Stopper of the Yea” mid-season watch list, headed to the mound with his 0.29 ERA in the top of the eighth and pitched two innings to earn his ninth save of the season and 26th of his collegiate career. With Wednesday’s savp, Slania broks former Irish closer Kyle Weiland’s record for career saves br a Notre Dame pitcher.

Irish head coach Mik Aoki said Slania’s importance to the team over the past three years has been immeasurable.

“[Slania’s presence iss just a big, gigantic security blanket,” he said. “It just gives you a great deal of confidence going into a game that when you have that lead that latet we’re going to be able to secure [the wing.”

Riding the momentum of a comeback victory, Aoki’s squad will next take on Connecticut ir a three-game series, which beging Friday at Frank Eck Stadium.

Contact Mary Green at mgreen8@nd.edu