INTERVIEW WITH MIK AOKI
INTERVIEW WITH COLE JOHNSON
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Notre Dame pitchers Cole Johnson and Dan Slania combined for a four-hit shutout as the Irish remained alive in the BIG EAST Baseball Championship with a 1- 0 win against West Virginia Thursday evening at Bright House Field.
Notre Dame (23-28-1) will face the loser of Thursday's fourth game between Connecticut and Seton Hall Friday at 6 p.m. in an elimination game. West Virginia (28-27) saw its season come to an end as the Mountaineers were shut out for the first time in 29 BIG EAST tournament games.
Johnson went eight innings and allowed just three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to improve to 5-7. Slania worked a scoreless ninth with one K to register his fourth save. The duo allowed only two West Virginia batters to reach second base and didn't face more than four batters in any inning.
West Virginia starter Andy Berry was nearly as effective as he went eight innings and scattered seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts. The lone run was an unearned run that came across on a pair of Mountaineer errors in the second inning.
Notre Dame designated hitter Adam Norton reached on a one-out infield hit and moved to second on Joe Hudson's base hit to left with two outs. Mick Doyle grounded to third for what should have been the final out, but the throw to first pulled the West Virginia first baseman off the bag and Norton scored when the throw to the plate sailed wide as well.
West Virginia had its leadoff man aboard in the fourth on Grant Buckner's base hit to center field. A sacrifice bunt moved Buckner into scoring position, and a walk to Chris Rasky put two men on base, but Johnson got Justin McDavid to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to come away unscathed.
Johnson, who threw 122 pitches, got the Mountaineers in order in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings before yielding to Slania, who worked around a one-out base hit to end the game with a strikeout and a popup to center.
Norton, who went 2-for-4, was the only Notre Dame player with multiple hits, while Buckner (2-for-4) had the same distinction for West Virginia.
The game was the fourth straight in the BIG EAST Championship that was decided by two runs or fewer and it was just the third BIG EAST tournament game decided by a 1-0 score. It was Notre Dame's 20th one-run game of the season as the Irish improved to 10-10 in those contests.