The Notre Dame baseball team got the 2012 season off to a good start, going 2-1 in the BIG EAST/Big Ten challenge in Florida.
Notre Dame defeated Illinois in the season opener on Friday in a 13-12 slugfest and beat Iowa 5-2 on Saturday behind a complete game from Adam Norton. On Sunday, the Irish failed to complete the sweep and fell 15-8 to Purdue.
“We swung the bat very well, and we expected to be a much better offensive team than a year ago,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “We still have some questions with our bullpen, but, overall, I’m pleased our guys never gave in and competed hard for 27 innings.”
The Irish offense, a weakness in 2011, came out swinging, scoring 26 runs and batting .379 over the course of the weekend.
Notre Dame nearly broke the tournament record for team batting average. St. John’s still holds the record for single tournament batting average when they hit .387 in 2009. The 44 hits for the Irish also approached the Red Storm’s record of 48 hits in 2011. Notre Dame drew 17 walks – the second-most ever in a single tournament – and did set a tournament record with 11 batters hit by a pitch.
The Irish registered 10 or more hits in each of the three games – a feat not accomplished by a Notre Dame team in its first three games of a campaign since 1993.
This surge was led by a potent middle of the lineup combination of Eric Jagielo, Trey Mancini, and Joe Hudson. The trio went a combined 20-for-36 with three home runs and 17 RBI on the weekend.
Hudson, who entered his junior season with just one home run in two seasons, jacked two on Friday against the Illini, including a go-ahead solo shot in the ninth inning to give the Irish a 13-12 lead. He was the first Irish player to ever hit multiple home runs in a season opener. In addition, the junior catcher reached base 13 times in 16 plate appearances.
Hudson was named BIG EAST Player of the Week on Monday. He set tournament records with 11 total bases in the victory over Illinois, 16 total bases over the entire tournament and a tournament slugging percentage of 1.600.
Hudson also tied tournament records for home runs in a single game, home runs in a tournament and doubles in a single game. He batted .700 (7-for-10) with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBI. Hudson added three runs scored, three walks and three hit by pitches. He three out two of three runners attempting to steal on the weekend.
Meanwhile, Jagielo went 7-for-13 during the three games and drove home four runs. His most clutch hit of the weekend occurred Saturday against Iowa in the top of the eighth inning, with the Irish down 2-1. With runners on first and second base, he laced a double to deep center field, scoring two runs to give the Irish a 3-2 advantage, which they would not relinquish.
Mancini picked up where he left off last season and recorded six hits in 13 at-bats and homered against the Fighting Illini.
“Those three are all hard-working, talented baseball players,” Aoki said. “While they obviously won’t hit at that kind of pace, you saw the potential for as powerful a 3-4-5 trio as there is in the BIG EAST.”