SOUTH BEND _ As Rutgers’ Patrick Kivlehan stepped into the batter’s
box in the fifth inning, with a runner at third and two out, Notre
Dame catcher Joe Hudson stood up and extend his right hand to call for
an intentional walk.
Even though it was going to end Notre Dame starting pitcher Adam
Norton’s streak of 27 consecutive innings without a walk, the Irish
learned not to take any more chances with Kivlehan.
Kivlehan didn’t get a chance to swing the bat in the fifth, but he did
the rest of the game. The Rutgers’ slugger smacked four hits in four
at-bats, including a homer, and drove in two runs to lead the Scarlet
Knights to an 11-6 baseball victory Saturday in Big East action.
Notre Dame (26-23 overall, 12-11 Big East), takes on Rutgers (28-21,
13-10) on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. in another key showdown as the Irish and
Scarlet Knights battle for seeding in the Big East Tournament in two
Two-sport star Pat Connaughton (3-3, 2.35 ERA) takes the mound for the
Irish against Ryan Fasano (5-4, 3.46) in the deciding game of the
Notre Dame honored its baseball seniors before the game, including
former South Bend St. Joseph’s High School star Ryan Richter, who
pitched two-thirds of an inning in the contest.
Kivlehan played safety for four seasons for the Rutgers football team.
He hadn’t played baseball since high school, but he leads the Big East
in hitting (.404), home runs (12), slugging percentage (.679) and
on-base percentage (.474). The 6-foot-2, 211-pound right-handed
hitting third baseman also has 23 stolen bases.
“It’s probably a little bit of luck,” Kivlehan said. “You need some
luck to get some of the hits you get. I don’t know how to explain it.
I’m just going out having fun and just enjoying it. That probably
helps a lot. I got pitches to hit and I took advantage of that. I got
a couple of cheap hits, but I’ll take them.”
Kivlehan was 0-for-8 in the first two games of the season. He was
benched for three games, but when he got his second chance, he
responded with six hits in his next 11 at-bats. Since then, he has
anchored the Rutgers lineup.
“It took me a while in the beginning of the year,” Kivlehan said. “I
struggled a little bit. I give credit to the coach to stay with me and
give me a chance to make an impact. Over time, I got my swing back.”
Notre Dame entered the game boasting 33 consecutive innings without an
error, but committed five errors on Saturday. The Irish are 23-8 when
they commit one error or fewer, and 3-15 in games with multiple
In their 11 Big East losses, the Irish have given up 21 unearned runs,
while league opponents have only given up four unearned runs in those
“The errors tear you up,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said, “but I also think
it’s the way we react to the errors.
“I thought we did a pretty decent job in the way that we reacted to
them today, I really did. There have been other instances in the
course of the season where we haven’t reacted to it very well.
“At least guys were trying to make a play. I think sometimes I would
classify errors in different ways. At least today, we tried to make
errors of commission, rather than sitting back and letting balls play
Joe Hudson and Trey Mancini spearheaded the Irish offense with home
runs. Mancini hit a two-run shot, and Hudson belted a solo blast.
“At that point in the game, we were down six runs, I knew they were
going to throw me a fastball and not get too cute with me,” Hudson
said. “The guy left it up, I put a good swing on it, and I got lucky.”
Hudson said that there is plenty at stake in Sunday’s series finale.
“We have a chance to clinch a spot in the Big East Tournament (on
Sunday), and clinch the tiebreaker with Rutgers, with Cincinnati, with
Villanova, Pittsburgh and Georgetown,” Hudson said. “It’s a big game
for us in that aspect.”
Aoki said that the Irish can gain serious ground if they win out in
their final four Big East regular-season games.
“If we were to find a way to 5-1, or 4-2 down the stretch, depending
on how things go, we could be in the three seed really, really
easily,” Aoki said. “If we went 5-1, it’s not a huge stretch of the
imagination to be the two seed.
“We’ve lost our margin of error for that. We would have to run four
straight, which in think that this club is perfectly capable of doing,
in spite of who it is that we’re playing. When we play clean and we
play well and we pitch well, we can beat anyone in the country.
“Right now, our margin of error is that we can lose to anyone in the
Rutgers 010 242 101 — 11 13 1
Notre Dame 000 030 102 — 6 9 5
Rob Smorol (W, 7-3), Dan O’Neill (7), Adam Norton (L, 4-4), Sean
Fitzgerald (5), Ryan Richter (6), Donnie Hissa (6), Joe Spano (7),
Steve Sabatino (8), Patrick Veerkamp (9). S _ O’Neill (4).
HR: Joe Hudson (ND), Trey Mancini (ND), Patrick Kivlehan (R).
T — 2:53. A — 706.