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Baseball: ND drops two of three to Seattle on the road

Chris Masoud | Monday, February 28, 2011

After opening the season by taking two out of three games in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge last weekend, Notre Dame took a step backward by dropping two of three to Seattle over the weekend.

Senior pitcher Brian Dupra blanked the Redhawks in six shutout innings, as the Irish picked up a 5-0 win on Friday. Seattle bounced back on Saturday to sweep the Irish in a doubleheader by scores of 1-0 and 7-2.

Dupra struck out a career-high 11 batters and scattered just four hits in the series opener, picking up the win to improve to 1-1 on the year and give Notre Dame (3-3) its third consecutive win. Although the Irish only mustered six hits on the day, none were more important than the back-to-back two out hits from sophomore catcher Joe Hudson and freshman first baseman Trey Mancini in the eighth inning. Hudson belted a two-run double, while Mancini scorched a two-run home run, his second of the season.

Although the Irish offense provided clutch support in the opener, it did not fare as well on Saturday, squandering top pitching performances from senior right-handers Cole Johnson and Todd Miller. The Irish could only muster two runs on seven hits during Saturday’s doubleheader, dropping the twinbill despite quality start from Johnson and Miller.

Locked in a pitcher’s duel with Redhawks’ right-hander Brandon Kizer, Johnson yielded just one run and one walk over seven and one-third shutout innings, but took the loss to move to 1-1 on the season. Kizer kept Notre Dame off balance over eight shutout innings, striking out two without issuing a single walk in the 1-0 Irish loss.

Notre Dame jumped to a 2-0 lead in the nightcap thanks to RBI singles from Mancini and senior outfielder Herman Petzold in the top of the first inning, but the Irish did not record another base hit for the remaining eight frames. Redhawks’ righty Seafth Howe set down the final 16 batters faced in the game, as Seattle (4-3) retired the final 19 Notre Dame batters in order.

While the Irish were unable to salvage the series with a win on Saturday, several freshmen have stepped into important roles for coach Mik Aoki’s squad. In addition to Mancini’s bat in the heart of the lineup, freshmen hurlers Anthony McIver, Sean Fitzgerald and Dan Slania earned valuable in-game experience this weekend.

Earlier this season, Aoki said that each would play a significant role in the success of the Irish pitching staff.

“I think [Fitzgerald] and Slaney and McIver are very much guys that will factor into it, and pitch really big and significant innings for us,” Aoki said on Feb. 21. “I think McIver in particular might start some of those midweek games once we start playing them.”

Although the Irish offense has not found its midseason form yet, the offense typically lags the pitching early in the season, especially for teams that practice in a cold-weather environments and are limited to the batting cages.

Nevertheless, Aoki said he believed his team is ready for conference play.

“If we needed to, could we open up in the Big East this week or the week after? Yeah, I think we could,” Aoki said.