Notre Dame will have to wait another day to learn its possible NCAA Baseball Tournament fate. In an improbable matchup of the two lowest seeds, No. 8 seed UConn downed No. 7 Notre Dame 8-1 Sunday afternoon in Clearwater, Fla to claim the Big East Tournament championship. The win gives the Huskies an automatic NCAA Tournament berth, while all the Irish can do is hope to claim one of 34 at-large bids when the 64-team field is announced on Monday.
L.J. Mazzilli's two-run home run off Adam Norton in the first inning gave the Huskies the early lead. Norton was making his second start in the last five days. The senior fired a complete game shutout in Wednesday's Big East opener for the Irish against No. 3 seed Seton Hall. Norton fired 110 pitches in his nine shutout innings in the 5-0 win over the Pirates.
Norton surrendered five runs (four earned) in just 2.1 innings. He struckout three and walked one in his shortest outing of the year. UConn scored again in the second and chased Norton by adding three more runs in the bottom of the third. Irish closer Dan Slania fired the final 5.2 innings, yielding two runs on nine hits.
UConn made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011 before missing the tournament with a 31-27-1 record last year. Mazzilli is one of the few Husky holdovers from those teams. The Huskies become the first No. 8 seed to win the Big East Tournament since the field expanded to eight in 2006.
Husky starter Anthony Marzi was making his second start of the tournament as well, but fared far better than his Irish counterpart. Marzi threw 74 pitches in a 3.1 inning outing on Thursday in an eventual 8-7 win over South Florida. He allowed four runs that day, but gave-up just a run on four hits in Sunday's complete game effort. Notre Dame's lone run came on Trey Mancini's seventh home run of the season in the seventh inning.
The Fighting Irish will now have to wait and see if their run to the Big East Championship game offsets their late season swoon in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee. Notre Dame won its first three games of the tournament before Sunday's championship game loss. They dropped seven of their last 11 regular season games prior to that.
Notre Dame's win against No. 3 seed Seton Hall and two wins over No. 2 seed Pittsburgh in Clearwater helped push its RPI up to 29 before the title game. The RPI coupled with just 34 wins (40 total wins or closer to that number coupled with such an RPI would be a near automatic at-large selection). The NCAA selection show takes place at Noon ET on Monday. It will be televised on ESPNU.