CLEARWATER, Fla. – The University of Notre Dame rode top-notch pitching, timely hitting and stellar defense to three consecutive victories over the top-two seeds in the 2013 BIG EAST Conference Tournament, but Connecticut and specifically Anthony Marzi derailed the Fighting Irish, 8-1, Sunday afternoon in the title game at Bright House Field.
Notre Dame drops to 34-24 overall and leaves its NCAA postseason chances in the hands of the selection committee. The Irish RPI sits at an impressive No. 32 even after the defeat Sunday. Notre Dame collected eight victories over teams ranked in the RPI top 50, including ACC tournament runner-up Virginia Tech and Big 12 tournament champion Oklahoma on neutral fields. The Irish also took two of three at Cal Poly, who RPI sits in the top 25.
The Irish strength of schedule is the best in the BIG EAST (No. 46). Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, two other BIG EAST bubble teams, have RPIs of 42 and 61, as well as strength of schedule rations of 141 and 204. Notre Dame also upended the Pirates and Panthers a total of five times away from Frank Eck Stadium.
The 2013 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Selection Show with regional pairings, will be revealed in a live, one-hour telecast on ESPNU at Noon (ET), Monday, May 27.
Marzi improved to 5-6 on the season with a complete-game effort. He limited Notre Dame to an earned run on four this. Marzi fanned six and walked two. He continued his success against the Irish over his career. Marzi has thrown 22.1 career innings against Notre Dame and allowed just six earned runs on 16 hits. He has fanned 13 and walked three.
Senior RHP Adam Norton, who started on just three days rest after his complete-game shutout of No. 2 seed Seton Hall on Wednesday, was not himself and took the loss (10-5). He was charged with five runs, four earned, on seven hits in 2.1 innings of work. The outing was his shortest career start since May 17, 2011 when went just 2.0 innings in a predetermined staff day. Norton had worked at least 7.0 innings in 12 of his 15 previous starts.
Junior 1B and All-American candidate Trey Mancini was the only Irish player with more than a hit. He went 2-for-4 with a solo home run – his seventh long ball of the season. Junior RHP and All-American closer candidate Dan Slania entered the game in the third inning and tossed 4.1 straight scoreless innings. He ultimately went 5.2 innings and allowed two earned runs on nine hits. Slania fanned two and did not issue a walk.
Notre Dame entered today’s final having allowed just one earned run over its first three games, but the Huskies doubled that total alone in the first inning.
Connecticut 2B LJ Mazzilli lifted a 1-2 change up from Norton over the left-field wall for a two-run home run that spotted Marzi a quick 2-0 advantage.
The Huskies pushed their lead to 3-0 on an error in the bottom of the second and broke out for three runs, two coming on a two-out, two-run RBI triple from Tom Verdi in the fourth.
The six-run lead was more than enough for Marzi. The southpaw retired the first eight Notre Dame batters before a two-out double in the third. He then got help from a stellar defensive play to deny the Irish a run. Senior 2B and co-captain Frank DeSico appeared to drive a single through the second base hole, but Mazzilli made a tremendous sliding defensive stop and gunned down the Irish co-captain by a step.
Notre Dame threated in the top of the fourth inning, but Marzi was equal to the task. Mancini ripped a two-out single and sophomore RF Ryan Bull followed with a walk, but the Connecticut junior struck out sophomore DH Phil Mosey to end the threat.
The punch out started a run of seven straight retired batters for Marzi before Mancini belted a solo home run to open Notre Dame seventh inning. The round tripper cut the Irish deficit to 6-1, but that’s all Notre Dame would manage.
Marzi retired nine of the last 11 batters he faced.