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Baseball: Irish defeat Kent State in Connaughton debut

John Sandberg | Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Timely hitting and a strong combined pitching effort helped No. 15 Notre Dame secure an 8-1 victory Tuesday night over Kent State in a brisk game at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind.

The Irish (15-6) have now won three straight games.

Sophomore right-hander Pat Connaughton made a brief but impressive season debut for the Irish. Connaughton pitched two innings, allowing no runs, no hits and no walks while striking out one batter.

“[Connaughton] has been doing a great job in the scrimmages we’ve had in practice, getting his feet wet,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “He came in, threw strikes and pitched to contact … I was happy to see him throw well.”

Sophomore right-hander Matt Ternowchek was the winning pitcher Tuesday. Ternowchek threw 3.2 innings, allowing two hits and one run on a sacrifice fly after allowing a triple to center field. 

“I think if we get a slightly better jump on that ball in the outfield it would have had a chance to be caught,” Aoki said. “But Matt did a really good job and has been doing a great job for us all season long.”

Kent State (8-13) got on the board first in the fourth inning with the sacrifice fly off Ternowchek, but Notre Dame responded in the bottom frame with a run of its own on freshman designated hitter Zak Kutsulis’ two-out RBI triple, making the score 1-1.

Notre Dame took advantage of some timely hitting and erratic Kent State pitching in the fifth inning to secure the win. Junior catcher Forrest Johnson led off the inning with a double and was able to score two batters later on a wild pitch. A few batters later, another wild pitch, this time with the bases loaded, allowed another Notre Dame run to score, making the score 3-1.

Sophomore outfielder Ryan Bull and Kutsulis each added RBI singles in the inning, and after five innings, Notre Dame led 6-1.

In the eighth inning, with the score still 6-1, Kent State moved a runner to third base but freshman reliever Nick McCarty came in and induced a groundball to get Notre Dame out of the inning and avoid any damage.

Junior second baseman Frank DeSico and senior pinch hitter Adam Norton were hit by pitches in consecutive at bats to start the bottom of the eighth inning. Junior third baseman Eric Jagielo hit an RBI single to score DeSico, and junior first baseman Trey Mancini followed Jagielo with an RBI single of his own, making the score 8-1. 

Freshman right-hander Connor Hale made his collegiate debut by retiring the final batter of the ninth inning for Notre Dame.

Bull, Jagielo and Kutsulis each had two hits apiece, with Kutsulis adding three RBIs, as well.

“We have an offense that is very capable of putting up some runs,” Aoki said. “We’ve faced some good pitching and good teams this year so I was happy to see us break out a little bit tonight.”

The Irish will now hit the road and return to action Thursday in a Big East matchup against No. 10 Louisville. 

“They have some kids that can really run the velocity up there and pitch,” Aoki said. “I think it’s really going to come down to which team gets more timely hitting. It should be a great series with two of the best teams in the Big East going at each other.”

First pitch between the Irish and Cardinals is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

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