May 17, 2012
STORRS, Conn. – Connecticut plated two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, the second and eventual winning tally coming on a passed ball, which proved to be enough for junior RHP David Fischer as the Huskies held off Notre Dame, 2-1, Thursday at J.O. Christian Field. The Irish dropped to 28-24 overall and 13-12 in the BIG EAST, while Connecticut improved to 28-24-1 and 15-10.
With Notre Dame’s loss (its third by one run and ninth by two runs or less in conference play) and Rutgers’ victory, the Irish dropped into seventh place in the league standings – one game behind the Scarlet Knights (14-11) for sixth. The Huskies (15-10) are alone in fifth and trail Seton Hall (16-9), who knocked off league-leading St. John’s, by one game for fourth place.
The Irish made some noise in the top of the ninth inning against UConn closer Scott Oberg. After freshman DH Ryan Bull was robbed of a base hit to open the inning, sophomore 3B Eric Jagielo singled to left field. Freshman Connor Biggio pinch ran for Jagielo and represented the tying run.
Up stepped Notre Dame’s leading RBI and home run leader in sophomore 1B Trey Mancini. Oberg quickly got ahead at 0-1 before Mancini put a charge into an offering. The Huskies LF Eric Yavarone retreated quickly and had room to make the catch a step before the left field wall.
Biggio scampered into scoring position on a wild pitch a couple of pitches later, but Oberg got junior C Joe Hudson to fly out to end the game.
Oberg picked up his seventh save of the season, lowered his earned-run average to a paltry 1.16 and made a winner out of Fischer, who was masterful.
The right-handed hurler improved to 4-6 on the year and limited Notre Dame to an unearned run on three hits. Fischer struck out a career-best 10 and issued just one walk.
Senior RHP Will Hudgins took the loss and dropped to 4-3. He cruised through the first three innings, but ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth after retiring Tim Martin to open the frame (the eighth straight UConn batter retired). Hudgins got ahead of L.J. Mazzilli 0-2, but the UConn 2B worked the count full and pulled a slider into left field for a base hit. Mazzilli promptly swiped second.
Hudgins again got ahead of the next Huskies batter, Ryan Fuller, 0-2, but again was not able finish the at bat. Fuller rifled a single to left field to score Mazzilli and scampered into scoring position on the throw home. Tom Verdi followed with UConn’s third straight single to put runners on the corners, but a failed safety squeeze and Hudgins’ walk left the bases loaded with two down.
Hudgins’ 0-1 fastball to Joe Pavone got away from Hudson behind the plate for a passed ball and the Huskies extended their lead to 2-0.
Hudgins tossed only 4.0 innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits. He struck out four and walked one.
Notre Dame had opportunities with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs in both the first and third inning, but Fischer got out of each jam. He retired 13 of 15 Irish batters after Bull’s one-out double in the first, including seven straight at one point before senior SS Tommy Chase opened the top of the sixth inning with a single, moved into scoring position following junior 2B Frank DeSico’s sacrifice bunt and scampered to third on a passed ball. Bull cut the Irish deficit to a run, 2-1, on a sacrifice fly.
It’s all Notre Dame could muster against Fischer and Oberg, but the Irish bullpen was just as good. Senior LHP Steve Sabatino (1.0 IP), sophomore RHP Donnie Hissa (1.0 IP), senior LHP Joe Spano (1.1 IP) and sophomore RHP Sean Fitzgerald (0.2 IP) combined for 4.0 scoreless innings of relief.
Notre Dame’s bullpen has not allowed an earned run in its last 12.2 innings of work in BIG EAST action.
The Irish (four) and Huskies (five) combined for just nine hits on the day.
Notre Dame returns to action against Connecticut at 6 p.m. Friday at New Britain Stadium. Freshman RHP Pat Connaughton will take the mound for the Irish. In-game updates will be available on Twitter at @NDBaseball and Facebook at NDBaseball, and fans can listen to all the action locally on 103.1 FM and on the Internet at UND.com.
— ND —