April 13, 2013
PITTSBURGH – Baseball can be both cruel and odd, and sometimes at the same time, which is likely how the University of Notre Dame feels about the game right now. The No. 16 Fighting Irish dropped their fourth straight game overall and second in as many days at Pittsburgh, 4-2, Saturday at Charles L. Cost Field. Notre Dame dropped to 19-13 overall and 4-7 in the BIG EAST, while the Panthers improved to 23-9 and 5-3.
Notre Dame lined out six times, drove Pittsburgh outfielders to the base of the wall on three other occasions and that does not include the Irish misfortune in the top of the ninth inning.
After the Panthers added a critical insurance run to extend the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning following a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunt, fly out to right field and wild pitch, sophomore DH Blaise Lezynski hammered a drive that seemed destined to one-hop the wall in right field, but Pittsburgh’s Casey Roche made a leaping grab to rob Lezynski of extra bases.
Sophomore PH Conor Biggio singled to bring the potential tying run to the plate. Senior CF and co-captain Charlie Markson followed with a bullet right back up the middle. The ball was hit so hard that Panthers’ closer Joe Harvey had no opportunity to evade the hot shot, but the baseball caromed off his leg and bounded perfectly to Eric Hess at first base. Hess simply picked up the ball and stepped on the bag to end the contest.
Notre Dame senior RHP Adam Norton was charged with his first loss of 2013 and dropped to 7-1 on the year. He struggled over the early innings, but worked into the eighth inning nonetheless. Norton allowed four runs, all earned, on eight hits in 7.1 innings of work. He struck out three and walked a pair.
Matt Wotherspoon picked up the victory and improved to 5-2 with 8.0 solid innings. He was charged with two earned runs on four hits. Wotherspoon fanned five and walked three. He retired 12 consecutive batters between the fourth and eighth innings. Wotherspoon also benefitted from some good fortune, especially in the top of the seventh inning.
Lezynski ripped a 0-1 offering right at the Pittsburgh shortstop for an out. Freshman SS Lane Richards followed with another line drive – this one to left field, but again was caught for an out. Markson then followed with a deep drive to left field that drove Shelinsky to the base of the wall. Three hard hit balls and not one resulted in a hit.
Pittsburgh grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning and appeared on the brink of putting the game away early, but Norton worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the third. He got back-to-back strikeouts and a ground out to end the threat.
The Irish rode that momentum in the top of the fourth inning. Freshman Zak Kutsulis ripped a leadoff double and junior 3B and All-American candidate Eric Jagielo followed with a towering, two-run home run that tied the score, 2-2.
Norton retired eight straight prior to a walk on a close 3-2 offering to open the Panther eighth inning. After Norton got a sacrifice bunt, junior RHP Sean Fitzgerald entered the game and got a routine ball to right field. Stephen Shelinsky scampered to third base and trotted home when Fitzgerald’s 1-0 offering to Evan Oswald was wild and rolled to the backstop.
Kutsulis was the only Irish player with a multi-hit game. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Jagielo’s round tripper was his eighth of the season and 26th of his career. He also surpassed the 100-career RBI plateau. Jagielo has driven in 101 to be exact.
The Panthers and Notre Dame will be back in action with the series finale at noon Sunday.
— ND —