Early runs and a strong start by University of Notre Dame junior RHP Sean Fitzgerald added up to a 5-1 Fighting Irish victory and three-game sweep of Quinnipiac Sunday at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame improved to 22-15 overall, while the Bobcats dropped to 10-24.
Fitzgerald opened the season as the Irish Friday starter, but was moved to the bullpen following the inclusion of sophomore RHP Pat Connaughton. Fitzgerald struggled over his four relief outings and was moved back into the rotation this weekend and returned to form. He tossed 7.0 innings, allowed just one run and struck out four.
As third-year coach Mik Aoki continues his search for a Sunday starter, Fitzgerald (2-3) made a strong case for the spot. He registered his first start since March 28 at Louisville.
“Working on my mechanics during the week, I feel a lot more comfortable,” Fitzgerald said. “My fastball command was pretty good today, and my slider’s getting there. Staying ahead of the count really and keeping the batters off balance was key.”
The junior maintained a shutout through his first six innings and finished the day allowing just four hits. In addition, Quinnipiac did not advance a runner past first base until Vincent Guiglietti led off the seventh with a double.
“[Fitzgerald’s outing] was a big pick me up,” Aoki said. “I hope that settles the number three spot for us. If [Fitzgerald] can give us the kind of outing he did today, our rotation, combined with Connaughton and Norton, is going to be a tough out.”
Junior RHP Dan Slania entered in the eighth and tossed 2.0 scoreless innings to secure the victory.
Meanwhile, Bobcats’ starter Nick Fabrizio (2-5) was saddled with the loss as he allowed four runs in six innings of work.
Junior 1B and All-American candidate Trey Mancini and sophomore DH Ryan Bull each recorded two-hit games. Mancini became the first Notre Dame player with a pair of triples in a single game since David Mills on April 6, 2010, against Oakland. He and Bull feasted on Quinnipiac the entire weekend. Mancini batted .545 (6-for-11) with a three runs scored, a double, three triples and seven RBI, while Bull hit .556 (5-for-9) with three runs scored, three doubles and five RBI.
The Irish continued their success scoring early against Quinnipiac with a run in the second inning and two in the third inning. Bull led off the second with a walk, stole second base and took third on a passed ball. Senior CF Charlie Markson then blooped an RBI single to right field for Notre Dame’s first run of the day.
The middle of the Irish order added to the lead in the third inning. Mancini notched his team-leading 37th RBI of the season on a triple to plated junior 3B and All-American candidate Eric Jagielo, who had singled to open the frame. Then, Bull placed an RBI double down the left field line to make the score 3-0.
“We finally broke our stretch of ridiculously bad luck this weekend on offense,” Aoki said. “I thought we hit the ball well during our six-game losing streak. We finally got some balls to fall in.”
An RBI double by freshman SS Lane Richards added a fourth run to the Irish lead in the fifth inning. He fouled off five straight pitches before lining a ball to the warning track in left-center to score Bull.
In the seventh inning, Guiglietti scored on a sacrifice fly by Bobcats Chris Migani to snap 17.2 consecutive scoreless innings for Irish pitching. The Bobcats had a chance to add another run as Ryan Nelson doubled and Sean Donaghue tried to score from first. However, senior 2B and co-captain Frank DeSico threw a strike to junior C Forrest Johnson on a relay throw to erase Donaghue at the plate.
“It’s always great seeing a perfect throw from the outfield,” Fitzgerald said. “Frank’s been great for us all year as a senior captain, and there’s no better person to see make that kind of play.”
The Irish answered the Bobcats’ run with one of their own in the seventh. Mancini added his second triple of the day to lead off the inning. He later scored on a Bull sacrifice fly to center.
Notre Dame looks to add to its three-game winning streak as they host Toledo at 5:35 p.m. Tuesday at Frank Eck Stadium.