Baseball: Home runs spark road sweep against Georgetown
Brendan Bell | Monday, April 23, 2012
Notre Dame broke away from the middle of the Big East pack in fashion, sweeping rival Georgetown in a three-game series over the weekend in Washington.
The Irish (22-16, 9-6 Big East) defeated the Hoyas (18-21, 5-10) 5-2 and 7-4 in a pair of games on Friday, following the doubleheader with a dominant 14-4 victory Saturday afternoon.
The big swing of the series was Friday afternoon, when sophomore third baseman Eric Jagielo came up in the top of the ninth with the score knotted 2-2. Jagielo popped a three-run go-ahead home run that gave the Irish a commanding 5-2 lead. The homer was his second of the game.
“It was a really big home run, because I thought we had thoroughly dominated that game and we still found ourselves tied,” Aoki said. “So when he hit that home run, and with the way we had been pitching, it really helped us for the rest of the game and series.”
Two-home-run games were the trend for the Irish this weekend, as sophomore first baseman Trey Mancini came back in the second game of the doubleheader and delivered a pair of solo shots, sparking the Irish to a 7-4 win.
“Trey came back and gutted it out after he got banged up last week,” Aoki said. “He was able to play and get some good swings on the ball.”
Mancini’s performance goes beyond the numbers, though, as Aoki said his return has restored a sense of confidence in the dugout.
“When Trey got hurt at the end of the Seton Hall weekend, our performances were a little bit up and down afterwards,” Aoki said. “Since he got back, it adds a lot to our lineup and he puts people back into their comfort zone. There is not as much of a sense of urgency, because when our lineup is all together, there is a feeling we can get back in games easier.”
After a pair of victories in the doubleheader, the Irish brought freshman righthander Pat Connaughton to the mound Saturday afternoon. Connaughton threw six scoreless innings in his longest outing of the season.
“I thought Pat did pretty well, and all in all, I think he was a lot better yesterday than against Cincinnati last time out,” Aoki said. “He was working ahead in the count a little bit more, and the tempo of the game lent itself to us a little bit better because we weren’t behind in counts and instead we were working advantages. A couple three-run innings for us and then having a guy on the mound that the team had confidence in was huge.”
Aoki said Connaughton, who is also on the basketball team, continues to get better as the season goes on, as he has the opportunity to focus on the diamond rather than the hardwood.
“He has to do a better job of closing some of the times when he had a two-strike count, but as a whole I think he has been improving and continuing to get better,” Aoki said.
The Irish pounded the ball Saturday and won 14-4 to close out the series. Inspecting the series against the Hoyas as a whole, Aoki said the three-game set gave a crucial boost to the team’s confidence about playing on the road.
“I think that game was a big deal because of our struggles winning away from home,” Aoki said. “After the first game, Eric Jagielo continued to swing the bat really well, along with the other guys.”
The Irish now stand in fifth place in the Big East standings, two games behind first-place Connecticut, which has a league record of 11-4.
The Irish will face Central Michigan this Wednesday, with first pitch at 5:35 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium, where Notre Dame is 8-2 this season.
Contact Brendan Bell at [email protected]