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Baseball: Losing streak extends to five

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, April 15, 2013

Luck plays a big part in the outcome of every baseball game, but the No. 16 Irish couldn’t find any in Pittsburgh, as the Panthers swept the weekend by 4-0, 4-2 and 12-3. 

Notre Dame (19-14, 4-8 Big East) has now lost five games in a row.

“We just continued a pretty prodigious streak of bad luck,” Irish coach Mik Aoki. “I don’t think we played poorly, but we didn’t do enough to win.”

Sophomore right-hander Pat Connaughton gave up three earned runs in 4.2 innings Friday night. The Panthers (24-9, 6-3) took the lead in the bottom of the second when Connaughton gave up a single and a triple, and then added two more in the fifth inning. Connaughton has thrown just 14 innings in four starts and has a record of 0-2 with a 3.21 ERA.

“We still needed to limit his pitch counts,” Aoki said of Connaughton. “He can’t come off the basketball court and be expected to throw 100 pitches in a game. It would be irresponsible of us.”

Freshman and junior right-handers Nick McCarty and Donnie Hissa each threw 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, but the Irish couldn’t get a break off Panthers’ junior right-hander Ethan Mildren, who gave up just three hits in his third straight complete game.

Senior pitcher Adam Norton got the start in Saturday’s game, pitching into the eighth inning in his first loss of the year. He gave up two runs in the second inning, but, with the bases loaded with no outs, he struck out the next two batters and then coaxed a ground out to keep the game under control.

The Irish got back in the game in the fourth inning, as freshman right fielder Zak Kutsulis hit a leadoff double and junior third baseman Eric Jagielo tied the score with a two-run home run.

Norton gave up a run in both the fifth and eighth innings, but the Irish had an opportunity to tie the game in the top of ninth when senior centerfielder Charlie Markson came to bat with sophomore designated hitter Blaise Lezynski on base. Markson hit the ball right back at the Pittsburgh pitcher, but it bounced right to the first baseman, who grabbed it and stepped on first base to end the game.

Sophomore right-hander Matt Ternowchek took the mound in Sunday’s getaway game, which was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth. He walked the first batter of the fifth inning, struck out the next and walked another before giving up a home run to junior outfielder Stephen Vranka.

The Irish lost control of the game in the innings that followed, giving up five runs in the sixth and four in the eighth. 

“It kind of has a cumulative effect,” Aoki said of his team’s losses. “I think it takes a lot of mental fortitude to continue to look at the glass half full rather than half empty.”

Although the weekend was a frustrating one for the Irish, Aoki said he’s not yet worried.

“We’ve just got to get out there and turn the tide a little bit, and I don’t think it’s anything that a win or two in a row wouldn’t fix,” Aoki said. “I think there were lots of silver linings today, and now we’ve just got to put it together into one solid weekend where hopefully some of the balls that we hit find a little green grass to roll around on.”

The Irish will try to break their losing streak when they travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to meet the Wolverines on Tuesday at 4:05 p.m.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu