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Baseball: ND takes series from Seton Hall

Isaac Lorton | Monday, March 25, 2013

After dropping a close 4-3 game Friday, the No. 15 Irish bounced back and beat Seton Hall 3-2 in both doubleheader games Saturday to clinch the series.

In Notre Dame’s past 13 matchups with the Pirates (8-12, 1-2 Big East), 11 have been decided by one run. The Irish (14-6, 2-1) redeemed themselves after the Pirates swept them in three games last season.

Irish coach Mik Aoki attributed the close matchups to pitching and both teams’ scrappy mentalities.

“I don’t know if we necessarily get the upper hand because we dropped three of them to them last year,” Aoki said. “I think a lot of it has to do with how well they pitch. I think a lot of it has to do with how well we pitch, and I think they are two very similar teams in terms of their makeup. They might run a little bit better than we do, we might have the edge in terms of hitting, but like I said they pitch it so well.”

On Friday, Notre Dame trailed early and could not make a comeback. Seton Hall grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a wild pitch by Irish junior right hander Sean Fitzgerald. The major damage came in the top of the third, when the Pirates plated three unearned runs. Pirates senior shortstop Giuseppe Papaccio and sophomore first baseman Sal Annunziata hit back-to-back doubles to put Seton Hall up 4-0.
In the bottom of the fifth the Irish began chipping away at Pirates senior ace Jon Prosinski. Irish sophomore designated hitter Ryan Bull singled and then advanced two bases on an error and passed ball, consecutively. Freshman right fielder Zak Kutsulis brought Bull in with an RBI single to make the score 4-1. Sophomore left fielder Mac Hudgins and senior second baseman Frank DeSico added a pair of RBI singles to make the score 4-3 but the Irish comeback attempt stopped there as they dropped their Big East opener.

“[Seton Hall] makes big pitches, over and over,” Aoki said. “We had runners in scoring position all night long and they just made big pitch after big pitch.”

A weather-induced schedule change forced the teams to play a doubleheader Saturday night and the Irish rose to the occasion, taking the series.

“It’s a tough thing to do especially against a team, a really quality team like Seton Hall,” Aoki said. “I know that you can look at their record and just write them off, but they pitch so well they compete so hard, they are a really good team. For us to bounce back after a tough loss, not to take anything away from them, I didn’t feel like we came out in the first three innings completely locked in, is great.”

On Saturday the Irish relied on small-ball and clutch pitching to overcome Seton Hall. Senior pitcher Adam Norton led the Irish in the first matchup.

“Adam Norton, was once again outstanding and gave us everything we desperately needed,” Aoki said. “He was awesome.”

The still-perfect Norton (6-0) pitched 7.1 innings, giving up two earned runs, walking none and fanning four.

“I think the main thing [that is working for me] is fastball command and being able to throw my off speed for strikes, so I can mix speeds pretty well,” Norton said. “It’s easy when you are confident in the defense behind you, just pump strikes and not really worry about anything going on behind you.”

The Pirates finally caught up to Norton in the eighth after Pirates junior center fielder Zac Granites’ RBI double and junior third baseman Chris Seldon’s RBI ground out. Irish Junior closer Dan Slania came in with two outs in the eighth and shut Seton Hall down. Slania closed out the game for the Irish victory.

The second game of the night was similar to the first, with Slania coming in to put down the Pirates’ attempts at a comeback with his seventh save of the season.

“Danny has been doing that for us for two-and-a-half years, going on three,” Aoki said. “You can’t say enough. You can’t say about how much of a security blanket that is for our coaching staff, for our team, for everybody to know we have a shutdown guy at the back end.”

The two squads were deadlocked at one until the bottom of the seventh. With the bases loaded and two outs, Bull hit a sharp RBI ground ball up the middle. Pirates sophomore Jose Lopez deflected the ball with his glove and all runners reached safely. Kutsulis then came to the plate and hit a routine ground ball to third, but Seldon threw the ball down the line and the Irish scored on an error to make the game 3-1.

Irish freshman reliever Nick McCarty picked up the win in three innings of relief. McCarty (3-3) ran into some trouble in the eighth giving up a run, but Slania came in to get the last six outs for an Irish victory.

Notre Dame will host Kent State at 12:30 p.m. today at Coveleski Stadium.

Contact Isaac Lorton at [email protected]