by SCOTT KUSHNER
Special to The Advocate
March 03, 2013
NEW ORLEANS — It felt like Friday night baseball in Turchin Stadium.
Starting pitchers Tony Rizzotti for Tulane and Sean Fitzgerald for Notre Dame controlled the pace early, tension stayed high as the bullpens came on, and the result came down to the wire. By the time all of the intensity simmered down, Notre Dame (3-1) had defeated Tulane 2-1 in the series opener at Turchin Stadium.
The game highlighted a dearth of power in the Green Wave lineup and it bit Tulane (3-2) particularly hard in the late innings.
Tulane stranded the potential game-tying run in the seventh and eighth and left the bases loaded in the ninth.
The final inning was particularly excruciating for Tulane.
After the Wave rallied with a pair of singles, a walk and a sacrifice bunt, third baseman Garrett Cannizaro hammered a pair foul balls down the left field line before striking out for the second out of the inning. Andrew Garner then flied to center field, allowing Fighting Irish closer Dan Slania to record the save and hand Notre Dame the (3-1) series opener.
Slania’s crunch-time performance followed the pattern set up by the rest of the night’s pitchers.
The only true offensive jolt for Notre Dame came when Eric Jagielo broke a scoreless tie in the in the sixth inning, blasting Rizzotti’s 0-2 pitch over the left-field wall, propelling the Irish in front 2-0. Jagielo’s shot snapped a pair of streaks, posting the first run of the season off Rizzotti (1-1, 1.20 ERA) in 14 innings and providing the first home run hit in a Green Wave game this year.
“On that home run, I threw the pitch where I wanted it,” Rizzotti said. “The guy put a good swing on it and I’ve never seen a ball get hit that way, that far. He did a great job.”
That one swing also provided enough offense to carry Notre Dame past a light-hitting Tulane team, which once again failed to generate much power on its own, despite racking up five hits in the final three innings. Through five games, against five different opponents, Tulane has just 14 runs and 10 extra-base hits.
After Brennan Middleton led the game off with an infield single, Irish starter Fitzgerald (1-1, 4.76) efficiently retired 15 consecutive Tulane hitters. Fitzgerald tossed just 81 pitches, allowing one run and four singles over 6.1 innings.
before handing things over to the dicey but effective Irish bullpen.
Tulane’s pitching staff continued its stellar season, with the exception of Jagielo’s home run. Rizzotti teamed with relievers Daniel Rankin and Brady Wilson to hold Notre Dame to just four hits, while striking out eight as the Green Wave’s opponent’s batting average for the season dipped to .161.
Yet, without the benefit of power hitting or timely hitting on the other end, the Green Wave enter today’s 2 p.m. contest trying to avoid losing the series.
“We’re a good club,” Tulane caoch Rick Jones said. “We got beat by a good club tonight and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.”