Feb 26, 2013, 1:53 PM EDT
The Notre Dame baseball team continued its impressive start to the season with a three-game series sweep of Tulane this past weekend. The Irish, who are now 5-1 on the season, are the first non-conference team to sweep a series from the Green Wave at their home stadium since 1997.
The Irish were rewarded for their performance by cracking the Top 25 of the Perfect Game and Baseball America national rankings. The Irish now rank 22nd and 23rd in the respective polls. This marks the first time since the 2006 season that the Irish have been ranked in the Baseball America Top 25.
In Friday’s series opener against Tulane, junior pitcher Sean Fitzgerald was phenomenal on the mound, leading the Irish to a 2-1 victory. Fitzgerald retired 15 straight Tulane batters, and allowed only one earned run over 6.1 innings. Freshman pitcher Nick McCarty continued to impress, coming on for an inning of scoreless relief, while junior Dan Slania earned his first save of the season. Slania escaped a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win for the Irish.
The Irish offense struggled in Friday night’s game, earning only four hits off Tulane starter Tony Rizzotti. Fortunately, one of those four hits was a two-run homer from junior 3B Eric Jagielo. The home run, which was Jagielo’s third of the season, proved to be all the offense the Irish would need to win Game 1.
Saturday’s game featured another dominant pitching performance from the Irish, who held off the Green Wave 3-1. Senior Adam Norton allowed one earned run over five innings to earn his second victory of the season. Junior Donnie Hissa, freshman Zak Kutsulis, and sophomore Cristian Torres added 3.0 innings of scoreless relief, and Slania came on in the ninth to earn back-to-back saves.
The Irish scored two runs in the first inning of Game 2, which once again would prove to be enough offense for the win. Senior co-captain Frank DeSico scored on a throwing error, while sophomore Ryan Bull drove in Jagielo on an RBI single. Junior catcher Forrest Johnson scored an insurance run on a Jagielo sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
The brooms came out on Sunday, as the Irish completed the sweep with an 8-3 win over the Green Wave. Bull led the offensive effort with a career day at the plate. The sophomore had four hits, a solo home run, and two RBI. Junior 1B Trey Mancini was 3-5 from the plate, while Jagielo, Johnson, senior co-captain Charlie Markson, and sophomore IF Mac Hudgins all added an RBI.
Hissa and McCarty came on in relief for freshman starter David Hearne and held off the Tulane offense. McCarty pitched 4.0 more innings of shutout relief to earn his second win of the season.
The team hopes to keep things rolling this upcoming weekend in the inaugural USA Baseball-Irish Classic at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The weekend series features games against Massachusetts and Tennessee (Friday, Mar. 1), Virginia Tech (Saturday, Mar. 2), and Rhode Island (Sunday, Mar. 3). Hopefully, after another strong performance this weekend, the Irish will continue to rise in the rankings as they attempt to return to national prominence.
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