Dan Slania.

USF Outlasts Irish, 8-2, In 19 Innings

May 3, 2013

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of South Florida took advantage of a pair of critical errors from the University of Notre Dame in the top of the 19th inning to plate six unearned runs and pull away for an 8-2 victory Friday at Frank Eck Stadium. The contest equals both the longest game ever played in the 120-year history of Fighting Irish baseball and the longest in BIG EAST Conference history. Notre Dame and Rutgers also went 19 innings on May 11, 2003. The Bulls improve to 30-15 overall and 14-2 in the BIG EAST to remain atop the league standings, while the Irish drop to 27-18 and 7-9.

Steven Leasure picked up the victory and improved to 3-1 on the season. The right-handed hurler tossed 3.0 scoreless innings of relief and limited Notre Dame to a pair of hits. Leasure fanned two without a walk.

Irish junior RHP Donnie Hissa was charged with the loss and dropped to 1-1 on the campaign. He fanned four in 3.0 innings of work, but was victimized by an error that ultimately led to six unearned runs. Hissa yielded six hits, three of which never left the infield.

The game, which lasted exactly five hours, featured 36 different players and a total of 540 pitches.

NCAA Division I baseball has not seen a longer regular-season game since March 26, 2011 when San Diego and Fresno State played a 22-inning contest. Only 16 games in NCAA history have ever reached the 20th inning. The longest game in NCAA history was 25 innings between Boston College and Texas on May 30, 2009, in the Austin Regional. The Eagles were coached in that game by current third-year Irish skipper Mik Aoki.

Notre Dame closer and All-American candidate Dan Slania displayed one of the gutsiest and most inspiring pitching performances in school history, yet it went for naught. The right-handed hurler, who allowed a two-out, game-tying two-run double in the top of the ninth inning that tied the score, 2-2, rebounded with 7.1 consecutive scoreless innings afterwards. Slania retired 21 of the last 23 USF batters he faced.

In all, Slania tossed 9.0 innings of relief and limited the Bulls to a pair of earned runs on six hits. He struck out seven and walked two.

Slania posted scoreless inning after scoreless inning, but the Irish were unable to capitalize on numerous scoring chances in extra innings. Notre Dame had its leadoff batter reach base in the 10th, 12th, 13th and 16th innings yet failed to plate a run. In fact, the Irish advanced the potential winning run into scoring position with less than two outs on four different occasions and could not deliver the critical hit.

The 12th inning might have been Notre Dame’s best scoring chance. Senior 2B and co-captain Frank Desico laid down a perfect bunt single to open the frame and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Senior Adam Norton, who will start Saturday on the mound, ripped a liner that appeared destined to sail over the glove of Zac Gilcrease and into left field, but the Bulls third baseman leapt and snagged the liner (ball even bobbled in his glove for a moment) and doubled off DeSico at second base to end the inning.

The Irish had the winning run 90 feet away with two outs in the 10th and 18th innings (after senior CF and co-captain Charlie Markson’s triple), but a fly out and strikeout ended each threat.

USF finally broke through in its half of the 19th inning. Hissa opened the frame with back-to-back strikeouts, but freshman C Ricky Sanchez’s errant throw over the head of junior 1B and All-American candidate Trey Mancini allowed Kyle Teaf to reach base.

The defensive miscue opened the floodgates for the Bulls.

Alex Mendez, who tied the game all the way back in the ninth inning with a two-out, two-run double, singled put runners on the corners with one out and James Ramsay followed with a single back up the middle that gave USF a 3-2 lead.

Jimmy Falla delivered the Bulls’ third consecutive base hit to load the bases. Hissa then got a chopper back to the mound, but it bounded high enough off the infield that the Irish were unable to turn an inning-ending double play. Notre Dame settled for a force out at home. Anthony Diaz followed with an infield single and Hissa added to his own trouble with an error trying to make a spectacular play. The lead grew to 7-2 on Kyle Copack’s two-run double and Gilcrease closed the scoring in the 19th with RBI another single.

Sophomore RHP Pat Connaughton was spectacular in a no-decision. He tossed 7.0 scoreless innings and limited USF to five hits, all singles. Connaughton struck out three and walked four.

Jimmy Herget was equally good for the Bulls. He limited the Irish to two runs, just one earned, on three hits in 7.0 innings. Herget fanned six and walked two.

After Notre Dame pushed its lead to 2-0 on sophomore Mac Hudgins’ pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, the Irish appeared as though they added another insurance run in the eighth. Jagielo ripped a single and was in the process of cruising home on Mancini’s ensuing RBI double, but the junior tripped a few steps shy of home plate and was ultimately tagged out.

The unfortunate mishap proved costly in the top of the ninth inning. Copack led off the Bulls ninth inning with a single, but Slania collected back-to-back strikeouts. Notre Dame was one out away from victory when Mendez stroked a 0-1 offering from Slania into the left centerfield gap to tie the game, 2-2.

The blown save was Slania’s second of the year. He had allowed just one earned run on the season in 37.2 innings of work before the Mendez dagger.

DeSico (2-for-8), Mancini (2-for-6), Markson (3-for-8) and Hudgins (2-for-6) all had multi-hit games for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame will look to even the series with USF at 2:05 p.m. Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium.

— ND —