Dan Slania.

Irish Regain Form, Upend Michigan State, 7-3

April 24, 2013

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore pinch hitter Blaise Lezynski drilled a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave the University of Notre Dame a 4-3 lead and junior All-American candidate Dan Slania did the rest with his school-record 26th career save to help the Fighting Irish defeat Michigan State, 7-3, Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame improves to 23-16 overall, while the Spartans drop to 22-12.

Lezynski’s first career home run could not have come at a better time. The Irish trailed Michigan State, 3-2, with two outs in the seventh. Sophomore LF Conor Biggio drew a walk and Lezynski was called to pinch hit. The left-handed hitter took the first offering from Chase Rihtarchik and deposited it well over the wall in right field to give Notre Dame a 4-3 lead. The Irish would actually tack on two more runs following junior 3B and All-American candidate Eric Jagielo’s two-run double.

The 6-3 lead was more than enough for Slania. The right-handed hurler, who was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award midseason watch list earlier in the day, retired six of the eight Michigan State batters he faced en route to his ninth save of the season (in 10 chances).

Slania surpassed Kyle Weiland’s (2006-08) previous school record of 25 career saves. He tossed 2.0 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to an almost unimaginable 0.29. Slania did yield a base hit and walk, but retired the final four batters of the game, including all three in the ninth on weak ground balls.

Freshman RHP David Hearne picked up the victory in relief with 0.2 scoreless innings of relief. He picked up a strikeout and improved to 1-2 on the campaign.

Jagielo and 1B and fellow junior All-American candidate Trey Mancini combined for seven hits. Jagielo went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and two RBI. Mancini went 4-for-4 with a run scored and double.

Freshman LHP Zak Kutsulis did not factor in the decision, but pitched extremely well nonetheless. The southpaw scattered 10 hits over 6.1 innings of work and allowed just three runs, all earned.

Rihtarchik was charged with the loss and dropped to 4-1 on the season. He allowed three runs, all earned, on one hit in 0.2 innings. Trey Popp was tagged with two earned runs on three hits in 0.2 innings. David Garner started for Michigan State and allowed a run on four hits in 2.0 innings, while Anthony Misiewicz surrendered a run on four hits in 4.0 innings of work with three strikeouts.

Sophomore RF Ryan Bull went 1-for-3 with an RBI single, sacrifice fly and two RBI.

Scoring started early as the Spartans plated two in the top of the first inning to grab a 2-0 lead. Kutsulis got Cam Gibson to ground out to second base to open the game before yielding four consecutive singles to Michigan State. The Irish rookie did induce a double play to end the inning.

The Irish answered in the bottom of the first inning with three hits and a run. Jagielo got things started with a two-out double off the left field wall, and Mancini followed with an infield single to put runners on the corners. Bull singled to left to score Jagielo, but Garner got Irish senior CF and co-captain Charlie Markson to line out to second base to end the inning.

Kutsulis settled into a grove and kept Michigan State off the scoreboard to allow the Irish to tie the game, 2-2, in the home half of the sixth inning.

Jagielo laced a one-out single to left field and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch from Misiewicz. Mancini followed with a single to centerfield. Bull then hit a fly ball down the right field line. Michigan State right fielder Jimmy Pickens lost the battle with the sun and wind, and ultimately dropped the fly ball, but did recover in time to force Mancini at second base. Jagielo scored to tie the game, 2-2, on the odd fielder’s choice and sacrifice fly.

Kutsulis retired 16 of 19 Spartans before running into trouble in the top of the seventh inning. Michigan State answered with three consecutive singles to regain a one-run lead, 3-2, but Hearne relieved Kutsulis and closed out the inning.

Rihtarchik came in for Michigan State in the bottom of the seventh and quickly recorded two outs, before Biggio’s walk and Lezynski’s blast proved to be the difference.

Notre Dame will open a critical three-game BIG EAST series with Connecticut (25-16, 8-7) at 5:35 p.m. ET Friday at Frank Eck Stadium.

— ND —