Notre Dame is in a place it has not been in more than half a decade. The No. 7 seed Fighting Irish beat No. 2 Pittsburgh 5-3 Thursday afternoon at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla to improve to 2-0 at the 2013 Big East Baseball Championship. It marks the first time the Irish have started 2-0 at the BET since 2006. That season marked the program's last NCAA Tournament appearance and also ended an unprecedented run of five consecutive Big East Tournament titles.
Notre Dame (33-23) opened the scoring with an RBI single when a wild throw by Pitt third baseman Sam Parente allowed Charlie Markson to reach base, with Irish catcher Forest Johnson scoring on the play. Frank DeSico singled one batter later to plate Markson to give the Irish a 2-0 lead.
The Irish took the lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth thanks to an RBI by Markson. DiSico plated another run when his sacrifice fly to center field scored Lane Richards.
Notre Dame pitching staff tossed 13 2/3 scoreless innings to start the Big East Tournament, but it came to an end in the top of the fifth when Pitt's Casey Roache added to his Big East-leading RBI count with a bloop single with two outs to get the Panthers on the board. The runs also ended starting pitcher Pat Connaughton's run of 25 2/3 consecutive shutout innings.
After another Pitt batter reached base in the inning, Parente ripped a single through the right side of the infield to plate Roache from second to make it a 4-3 game. Connaughton finally coaxed a ground ball to second base to end the inning with Notre Dame clinging to a one-run lead. Notre Dame scored the last run of the game in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Blaise Lezynski.
Connaughton (4-2) allowed three unearned runs on nine hits in 6.0 innings of work. He struckout three with three walks on the afternoon. Nick McCarty worked 1 1/3 hitless innings of relief with two strikeouts and then closer Dan Slania got the last five outs without seeing a runner reach base to record his 13th save of the season.
The only downside to the day was the end of a record hitting streak. First team All-Big East first baseman Trey Mancini had a hit in a school record 23 consecutive games entering the day, but was 0-for-3 in the ND win.
Notre Dame now has Friday off, while Pittsburgh faces No. 3 seed Seton Hall in an elimination game. The Pirates eliminated St. John's with a 7-2 win earlier Thursday. The winner of the Pitt-Seton Hall game would have to beat Notre Dame twice on Saturday to advance to Sunday's Big East Tournament championship game. Notre Dame's next game is at 10 a.m. ET Saturday.
Pitt (41-16) had swept their three-game regular season series from the Irish, but the win is another big shot in the arm for Notre Dame's potential NCAA at-large resume when selections are announced next Monday.