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Baseball: Irish take two from Bearcats

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, April 16, 2012

The Irish survived Friday night’s slugfest for a 10-9 win and rallied for a 6-5 walk-off win against the Bearcats on Saturday, but slumping Cincinnati prevented a Notre Dame sweep with a 6-2 victory in Sunday’s get-away game.

Both teams entered the weekend with five consecutive losses, but the Irish (19-16, 6-6 Big East) were the first to turn their fortunes around. After scoring two runs with two outs in the first, the Irish added four more in the second when junior outfielder Charlie Markson scored on a sacrifice fly and sophomore third baseman Eric Jagielo hit a three-run home run to left field. Notre Dame stretched its lead to 8-1 in the third inning as junior catcher Joe Hudson hit a solo home run. Markson manufactured another run by singling, stealing second, moving to third on freshman outfielder Mac

Hudgins’s groundout, and scoring on a wild pitch.

Things began to unravel for the Irish in the fourth, however. Senior right-hander Will Hudgins began the game with a conference-leading 1.33 ERA, but was scorched for four in the fourth after giving up four singles and a walk. He was pulled in the fifth after allowing another pair of runs, narrowing the Notre Dame lead to 8-7.

The Irish and the Bearcats (12-23, 2-10 Big East) traded two-run frames in the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth, but the Notre Dame bullpen did not allow a run in the last three innings and held on for the win. Sophomore right-hander Sean Fitzgerald (3-3) earned the win and sophomore right-hander Dan Slania claimed his seventh save of the season.

The Irish also received good news when they learned sophomore first baseman Trey Mancini, who was just returning from injury, did not break his wrist when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning. He did not play the remainder of the weekend.

“It wasn’t broken thankfully, but he’s just a little too sore and dinged up from it,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said Saturday. “He can grip a bat, [but] it’s really hard for him to actually swing a bat.”

While the Irish spent most of Friday’s game trying to hold off the Bearcats, on Saturday it was Notre Dame’s turn to wear the rally caps. Both teams scored in the first inning, but the Bearcats had a 5-1 lead in the sixth before senior outfielder

Alex Robinson hit a two-run single to score freshman

designated hitter Ryan Bull and junior infielder Frank DeSico.

Freshman infielder Phil Mosey cut the Cincinnati lead to one in the seventh with the first home run of his college career. It was the game’s second home run by a nine-hitter, as Cincinnati’s redshirt freshman left fielder Ethan McAlpine hit a two-run homer in the sixth.

“Almost any kid in any college lineup is capable of leaving the yard, and certainly I think Phil is one of those kids,” Aoki said. “I’m glad for Phil. He’s struggled a little bit on and off all year long, and I’m really happy for him.”

Mosey also ignited Notre Dame’s ninth-inning rally with a single to left center. Robinson hit a single to right to score DeSico and claim the second Irish win of the weekend.

Aoki said the gutsy wins Friday and Saturday showed the Irish had recovered from their series of tough losses.

“I think that’s a really good job of a lesson learned,” Aoki said. “I think they’ve gotten a little bit of that confidence back, I think they’ve got a little bit of that sort of fighting spirit [back]. Hopefully, I think today is the sort of win that you can really build upon.”

But Cincinnati – at this point sitting on a seven straight losses – returned with a vengeance on Sunday.

Freshman right-hander Pat Connaughton held Cincinnati to one run through the first four innings, but racked up 80 pitches and was replaced by senior left-hander Ryan Richter to begin the fifth.

“I was glad to get Patrick up to his pitch count, which for us was about 75 or 80,” Aoki said. “I’m not as glad that we arrived at that in four innings, but I think he did a good job [and] made pitches when he needed to. He left a 1-1 game; we had our opportunity.”

Richter, freshman right-hander Matt Ternowchek, senior left-hander Steve Sabatino, and Fitzgerald combined to allow five runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

Aoki had plenty of praise for the Cincinnati lineup that finally beat his team on Sunday.

“I have a hard time believing that that team’s 2-10 [in the Big

East],” Aoki said. “I think that’s as good of a lineup as we’ve played. They’ve got some guys that run. The wind obviously aided their power numbers this weekend, but you look at kids like … [Bearcats senior infielder Nic] Spence – I can’t believe that Spence is hitting what he is with the sort of swing that he has.”

The Irish will try to start a new winning streak when they travel to Bethesda, Md. for a tilt against Georgetown this weekend. The series will kick off Friday, with first pitch at 7 p.m.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]