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Baseball: Broncos’ errors boost ND

Chris Masoud | Thursday, April 7, 2011

In a sharp contrast to the first half of the season, Notre Dame capitalized on its opponent’s mistakes in the field and the pitching made it stand as the Irish took down Western Michigan 6-2 Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium.

After plating a run in the top half of the opening frame, the Broncos committed two errors in the Irish half that led to three runs.

“They were a little sloppy with the baseball early, and we were able to put up that three-run inning early and answer the early run,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “It was nice to see.”

Senior infielder Mick Doyle reached base on a throwing error and advanced to second on a fielding error. Freshman infielder Eric Jagielo reached base via a fielder’s choice, and rookie first baseman Trey Mancini stroked a double down the leftfield line to plate both runs.

The sloppy play by Western Michigan (14-16, 3-0 MAC) continued, as Mancini reached third base on a miss-timed throw to the Broncos cutoff man. Senior outfielder Herman Petzold took advantage by flying out to deep right field, good enough for a sacrifice fly to drive Mancini home.

While far from robust, Notre Dame’s offense has come alive over the last four games. Despite a 2-2 record over that stretch, the Irish (12-14-1, 3-3 Big East) have averaged close to six runs per game.

The offense generally takes time to catch up to the level of a team’s pitching, especially for teams that compete in cold-weather environments such as Notre Dame. Mancini has disregarded that rule of thumb, as the freshman leads the squad in nearly every offensive category.

“He’s a kid we all thought had a lot of offensive ability,” Aoki said. “He’s produced in really big moments. He’s [a] kid who has developed and continued to get better. I think you can say the same thing about Eric Jagielo.”

Jagielo and Mancini have handled the pressure of batting in the three and four spots in the Irish lineup with more poise than their freshman standing would suggest. The two lead Notre Dame in slugging percentage, hits, RBIs and doubles. The rookies have also combined for six of Notre Dame’s seven home runs on the season.

Sophomore right-hander Adam Norton tossed five innings while giving up only two earned runs to improve to 2-1 on the year. Aoki said Norton gives the Irish a competitive advantage with his versatility. When Norton is not starting on the mound, the outfielder can serve as a designated hitter or play in the outfield.

“That is a good thing for us,” Aoki said. “It allows us to get a guy who is swinging the bat well, but give us the flexibility to put him in the game as a pitcher.”

Looking to improve upon its 4-2 home record, Notre Dame will take the field Friday through Sunday in a weekend series against Connecticut.