March 23, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Freshman RF Ryan Bull (Eden Prairie, Minn./Eden Prairie H.S.) lofted a 1-0 pitch over the right field wall for a walk-off home run off Pittsburgh closer Tanner Wilt to send Notre Dame home with a 6-5 win over the Panthers.
Bull’s late-game heroics capped off a come-from-behind win for the Irish (13-7, 1-0 BIG EAST), who trailed by as many as four runs in the fourth inning and were down a pair in the eighth. Bull finished the evening 3-for-4 with a walk. The three-hit game was the first of his young career.
“It was just a great team win,” second-year Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “We’re not there if Will Hudgins doesn’t settle us down after we put him in a tough spot.”
Sophomore RHP Dan Slania (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic H.S.) (2-0) earned the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth, while Wilt took the loss to drop to 0-2.
In the eighth, sophomore 1B Trey Mancini (Winter Haven, Fla./Winter Haven H.S.) delivered the game-tying blow. With the Irish trailing, 5-3, Pittsburgh RHP reliever Matt Caravella walked junior 2B Frank DeSico (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) with one out and gave up a single to sophomore 3B Eric Jagielo (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove North H.S.).
The Panthers (10-9, 0-1) summoned their closer, Wilt, to try to record a five-out save and face Mancini, the Irish cleanup hitter.
However, Mancini roped a two-strike double to the wall down the left field to tie the score at 5-5. He went 3-for-5 for the game. Jagielo went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Lost in the late-inning dramatics was another dominant performance by Irish senior ace RHP Will Hudgins (Richmond, Va./Douglass Freeman H.S.). He pitched 7.1 innings and set a new career-high with 12 strikeouts, while allowing seven hits and no walks. All four of the Panthers’ runs were unearned as the result of a third inning error.
“It was the same deal that he’s been doing all year long,” Aoki said. “When he’s getting strikes in the lower-half of the strike zone as he did tonight, he’s really hard because [opposing batters] have to respect his splitter.”
After a two hour, one minute rain delay, Hudgins came out firing, striking out five of the first six batters. He pounded the strike zone with first-pitch strikes and controlled his splitter.
But in the third, the Panthers capitalized on an Irish miscue to score four runs. With one out, Derik Wilson sent a routine ground ball to Jagielo at third, who fired the throw over Mancini’s head, allowing Sam Parente to score from second. It was only Jagielo’s third error of the season, but it gave the Panthers an early lead and kept the inning alive.
Then, Pittsburgh’s top hitter, Jonathan Devereaux, who entered the night hitting .443, laced a two-run double to right. Casey Roche followed with an RBI single to cap the four-run frame. The inning ended Hudgins’ scoreless inning streak of 20.1 innings, dating back three starts to his March 3 outing against Texas State.
Hudgins recovered and allowed just three hits over his remaining 4.1 innings to keep the Irish in the game.
Meanwhile, the Irish offense chipped away at the 4-0 Panther lead. Matched against the Panthers’ ace, LHP Matt Iannazzo, the Irish put up strong at-bats, according to Aoki, and chased him from the game after 4.1 innings.
While Iannazo gave up eight hits and walked two with three hit batters, the Irish could not deliver the big hit. They loaded the bases in both the first and fifth innings but managed just two runs in those frames. They left 13 runners on base for the game.
The Irish answered with a run in the third on junior C Joe Hudson’s (Odessa, Fla./Tampa, Fla.) RBI double, scoring Jagielo. Hudson then tried to score on Bull’s two-out single to center. But Stephen Vranka fired the ball on the fly from center field to Elvin Soto, who tagged out Hudson to end the inning.
In the fifth, Hudson’s second double of the night scored Mancini from first. After senior DH Tommy Chase (Cohasset, Mass./Boston College H.S.) singled, Iannazo was replaced by Joe Harvey. He walked junior RF Charlie Markson (Whitefish Bay, Wisc./Whitefish Bay H.S.) to make the Panthers’ lead 4-3 before striking out the next two hitters to end the threat.
The Panthers added an insurance run in the top of the eighth against senior LHP Joe Spano (Verona, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) before Mancini and Bull’s heroics.
The last walk-off win for the Irish occurred on April 24, 2010 on a David Mills solo home run to defeat Cincinnati.
Notre Dame returns to the diamond Saturday looking to guarantee a series triumph against Pittsburgh at 2:05 p.m. ET. In-game updates will be available on twitter at @NDBaseball and facebook at NDBaseball while fans can listen to all the action locally on 103.1 FM and on the internet at UND.com.
— ND —