March 29, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The No. 15 University of Notre Dame stranded 10 base runners, including eight in scoring position, and it came back to bite the Fighting Irish in a 2-1 loss at No. 10 Louisville Friday night at Jim Patterson Stadium. The Cardinals got a bizarre walk-off fielder’s choice in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure the victory. Louisville improves to 21-5 and 3-2 in the BIG EAST, while Notre Dame drops to 15-8 and 2-3.

With the game tied, 1-1, heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cardinals opened the frame with a bloop double from Ty Young off Notre Dame closer Dan Slani. Freshman CF Kyle Richardson made a valiant effort to catch the baseball, but in hindsight should have just allowed the dying quail to drop in for a single, rather than playing into a double.

Coco Johnson then followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt that turned into a base hit when the ball popped off the bat and dropped into no-man’s land between third base and the pitcher’s mound. Slania then got a ground ball to shortstop and rookie Lane Richards threw home and the Irish ultimately got the lead runner, but Johnson advanced to third and Sturgeon reached second on the run down.

With runners at second and third, one out, Slania intentionally walked Danny Rosenbaum to load the bases. Slania got ahead of Zak Wasserman in the count 1-2, but the Louisville 1B lifted a fly ball to left field. Irish sophomore LF Mac Hudgins nearly made the catch, but it bounced off his glove to end the game. However, Louisville pinch runner Mike White, who was on his first base, failed to step on the second base bag and Notre Dame induced a force out. In other words, had Hudgins made the catch, the Irish would have survived the ninth inning with the game tied, 1-1.

Also interesting on the play was the fact that White, who again failed to step on the second-base bag, participated in the dog pile in between first and second base. If Wasserman passed White on the base paths, Notre Dame, again, would have gotten the game into extra innings.

Nonetheless, the Irish dropped their second straight in the series to Louisville.

Cardinals closer Nick Burdi, who sits 95-97 mph with his fastball and 88-91 with a slider, got the victory in relief. The right-handed hurler struck out five batters in 1.2 scoreless innings. He improved to 1-0 on the year.

Slania surrendered his first run of the season and saw his scoreless streak ended at 22.1 innings. He dropped to 0-1 on the year.

Five different Notre Dame players had a hit. Junior C Forrest Johnson had an RBI single to tie the game, 1-1, in the top of the seventh inning.

Senior RHP Adam Norton was outstanding once again. He did not factor in the decision, but limited the Cardinals to one earned run on five hits in 8.0 innings. The only run he surrendered came following a leadoff walk in the top of the first inning. Norton struck out three. He retired the last seven batters he faced in the contest. Norton has collected six quality starts in seven outings this season and lowered his ERA to 1.39.

Notre Dame had its opportunities against Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Thompson. The Irish advanced a runner into scoring position in the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, including three times with less than two outs, but were unable to score. Notre Dame went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Thompson went 7.0 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits. He struck out seven and walked a pair.

Louisville jumped out to a first-inning lead for the second straight day. Norton issued an uncharacteristic leadoff walk to Adam Engel, who promptly swiped second base and raced to third base on a ground out. Young followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Young had an RBI ground out in the first inning last night.

Notre Dame has now played 14 one-run games across its 23 contests this season. The Irish are now 9-5 in one-run games.

Notre Dame closes its three-game BIG EAST series with No. 10 Louisville at 1:00 p.m. Saturday.