University of Notre Dame junior RHP Sean Fitzgerald allowed a run in 6.2 innings of work and the Fighting Irish used a six-run eighth inning to run away from USF, 10-1, Sunday at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame salvages the series finale and improves to 28-19 overall and 8-10 in the BIG EAST, while the Bulls drop to 31-16 and 15-3. USF had captured its previous 11 league games.
Fitzgerald improved to 4-3 on the season with the victory. He scattered seven base hits, all singles, over 6.2 innings of work. Fitzgerald struck out three and did not issue a walk.
Joey Lovecchio took the defeat and dropped to 5-3 on the year. He allowed four runs, only two earned, on six hits in 7.0 innings of work. Lovecchio fanned four and walked four.
Four different Irish players collected multiple hit games, including senior 2B and co-captain Frank DeSico, and junior 3B and All-American candidate Trey Mancini. DeSico went 2-for-5 with a double, run scored and RBI. Mancini went 2-for-4 with a triple, run scored and RBI. He not only extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games, but Mancini also registered his 11th consecutive multi-hit outing.
Fitzgerald, who struggled mightily in his last conference start against Connecticut, was sharp from the opening pitch. The right-handed hurler retired 12 of the first 14 Bulls in the game, including the first eight of the game.
Entering the series finale, the Irish were just 2-for-30 with runners in scoring position and 1-for-23 after advancing a runner into scoring position with less than two outs, but Notre Dame finally started to deliver at the plate with runners in scoring position.
After sophomore RF Mac Hudgins drew a walk and moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt, Mancini gave the Irish a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with an RBI ground out.
Freshman DH Zak Kutsulis opened the second inning with a triple and trotted home on senior CF and co-captain Charlie Markson’s sacrifice fly. Freshman C Ricky Sanchez opened a two-out rally with a single, freshman SS Lane Richards followed with a walk and DeSico made it 3-0 with an RBI single.
Fitzgerald ran into some trouble in the top of the fifth inning, but limited the damage to a single run despite three USF hits. Kyle Teaf cut the Irish lead to 3-1 with an RBI single.
The Bulls again threatened in the sixth but Fitzgerald was once again up to the task. Alex Mendez and James Ramsey opened the frame with singles. Fitzgerald then got a ground ball right back to the box and quickly threw out the lead runner, Mendez, at third base. After fly out, Fitzgerald put an end to Bulls’ threat with a strikeout of Kyle Copack.
USF kept the pressure on Fitzgerald in the seventh as well. After an error and sacrifice bunt moved a runner into scoring position with one out and USF trailing 3-1, Fitzgerald got a ground out before turning the ball over to freshman RHP David Hearne, who collected a big punch out to end the inning.
Notre Dame added a critical insurance run in bottom of the seventh to push its lead to 4-1 and blew it wide open in the home half of the eighth.
Markson registered an RBI double, sophomore 3B Phil Mosey belted a two-run home run, Hudgins collected an RBI single and sophomore Ryan Bull delivered a two-run single. The six-run inning is the largest output for the Irish in an inning this season.
Hearne tossed 0.2 scoreless innings of relief and fellow freshman RHP Nick McCarty added 1.2 scoreless innings. McCarty picked up his first career save. He allowed a base hit, but also got a double play and faced the minimum five batters.
Notre Dame returns to action next weekend with a three-game series at St. John’s. The Irish open the series with a doubleheader at Noon on Saturday.