Apr 30, 2013, 10:38 AM EDT
The Fighting Irish entered this weekend with a subpar 4-8 record in the BIG EAST, finding themselves near the bottom of the conference standings. After a huge three-game sweep of Connecticut at Frank Eck Stadium, however, the Irish now boast a 7-8 record in BIG EAST play and are ranked sixth in the conference standings.
The Irish bats were on display this weekend, combining for 28 runs over the three games. Junior 1B Trey Mancini continued his excellent play at the plate, hitting 9-12 (.750) with 3 RBI in the series. The All-American candidate has had quite the week with 15 hits in his last 18 at-bats.
The series opened Friday night at the Eck, with the Irish cruising to a 12-2 victory over Connecticut. Sophomore starter Pat Connaughton (2-2) picked up his second win of the season. He tossed 5.1 innings and allowed only two earned runs while striking out four Husky batters.
Sophomore OF Mac Hudgins hit his first home run of the year, a two-run bomb to right field in the third inning. Hudgins also went 3-5 with 3 runs scored. Sophomore Ryan Bull went 3-5 with 3 RBI, while junior Eric Jagielo and senior co-captain Charlie Markson were both 2-3 with an RBI. Overall, the Irish racked up a season-high 17 hits in the series opener.
On Saturday, the Irish came from behind to earn a hard-fought 4-3 win over the Huskies. Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, the Irish lineup came through in the clutch. Mancini delivered a one-out RBI single to plate co-captain Frank DeSico and tie the game at 3-3. Then, with two outs and runners on the corners, sophomore Conor Biggio laid down a bunt. The throw to first was dropped by Connecticut 1B Bobby Melley, and Jagielo came in to score the go-ahead run.
Junior closer Dan Slania came on for a 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure the win and lock down his tenth save of the season. Senior Adam Norton improved to 9-1 on the year, pitching 8.0 innings while allowing only three earned runs.
After trailing early in Sunday’s game, the Irish pulled away late in the series finale for a 12-5 victory. Junior starter Sean Fitzgerald struggled early on, giving up three earned runs over 1.2 innings. However, the Irish bullpen helped pick up the effort, allowing only two more runs over the remaining 7.1 innings. Junior Donnie Hissa (1-0) earned his first win of the season after throwing 2.0 innings of relief.
DeSico led off with a first inning home run for the Irish, his second of the season, and finished the game with 4 RBI. Freshman shortstop Lane Richards went 3-5 with 2 RBI, while sophomore Blaise Lezynski added 2 RBI of his own.
The Fighting Irish are in the midst of a hot streak right now, having won seven of their last eight games. The positive streak couldn’t have come at a better time either, as the team is coming off of a negative six game streak. The Irish need to keep up the attack as they enter the final weeks of regular season play. Next up for the Irish are games against Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Then over the weekend, they open a critical three-game series with BIG EAST conference leader South Florida. If Notre Dame can capitalize on the opportunity, the Irish will show that not only can they hang with an elite opponent, but they will also make up some important ground in conference standings.
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