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May 26, 2012
Joe Hudson’s seventh inning fielder’s choice scored what proved to be the winning run in Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory over No. 3 seed Seton Hall Friday to advance to the semifinals of the Big East tournament in Clearwater, Fla.
Sophomore Dan Slania, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound righthander, came on with two outs and the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning, striking out the Pirates’ Zack Granite to preserve the victory for Adam Norton (5-5) and the No. 7 seeded Irish.
The victory eliminates Seton Hall from the Big East tournament and advances the Irish to the semifinals Saturday at 10 a.m. ET against No. 2 seed St. John’s, which defeated Notre Dame 12-2 in opening round action of the Big East tournament Wednesday.
In other semifinal action Saturday, No. 5 seed Connecticut - undefeated in two games like St. John’s - will try to eliminate No. 4 seed South Florida, which sent No. 1 seed Louisville packing Friday.
“We’re playing well,” said Irish head coach Mik Aoki, who takes the Irish into semifinal action of the Big East tournament for the first time since 2009. “The games that we had at our place during the regular season against (St. John’s) were pretty tight. I would expect nothing less than that.”
Notre Dame took a 2-0 lead in the second inning against Seton Hall on a throwing error and an RBI bloop single by Hudson. The Pirates closed to within one in the third inning, but the Irish made it 3-1 in the fifth on Eric Jagielo’s 12th home run of the season.
Again, the Pirates closed to within one in the top of the sixth, but the Irish made it 4-2 in the seventh on back-to-back singles by Frank DeSico and Charlie Markson, a rare sacrifice bunt by Jagielo (his first of the year), an intentional walk to Trey Mancini, and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Hudson for his second RBI of the game.
Steve Sabatino and Sean Fitzgerald followed Norton to the mound, and then Slania closed things out with the game-ending strikeout. Norton pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs while striking out two and walking none. Norton has now surrendered just seven walks (two intentional) in 98 innings pitched.
“Norty, when he’s going well, is able to change speeds, throw that little two-seamer in there, speed ‘em up every now and then with the fastball,” Aoki said. “I thought he did a really good job.
Slania’s 13th save of the season ties the Notre Dame single-season mark originally set by J.P. Gagne in 2003.
The Irish will go with freshman righthander Pat Connaughton (4-4) against the Red Storm Saturday. Connaughton failed to get an out against the eight hitters he faced Wednesday in Notre Dame’s one-sided loss. He entered that game, however, with a 1.86 earned run average in 10 games/eight starts.
Notre Dame has lost all four games to St. John’s this season, including a three-game sweep at home the last weekend of April.
Notre Dame NEWS