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Irish bats heat up in rout at chilly Steel Yard

Kent State's Derek Toadvine makes throw first base against Notre Dame Steel Yard Gary Tuesday evening. Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune

Kent State's Derek Toadvine makes the throw to first base against Notre Dame at the Steel Yard in Gary Tuesday evening. Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune

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Updated: April 28, 2013 6:59AM



GARY — Bitterly cold. A few flurries. Welcome to spring baseball in the region.

In weather more appropriate for its football team, No. 16 Notre Dame grabbed an 8-1 victory over Kent State on Tuesday at the Steel Yard.

“We needed a game and needed to get some kids the work,” Notre Dame coach Mik Aoki said. “It’s nice that this was available and nice that this is such a great facility.”

Kent State broke the ice (game-time temp was 39 degrees and falling) when Alex Miklos led off the top of the fourth inning with a triple. The shot to dead center field was nearly identical to the game-winning RBI triple that Miklos delivered in Kent State’s 21-inning marathon victory over Kentucky in the NCAA Regional at the Steel Yard last summer. Miklos scored on Evan Campbell’s sacrifice fly.

Notre Dame (15-6) tied it up in the bottom of the inning on a double from Ryan Bull and a triple from Zak Kutsulis. The Kent State right fielder seemed to have a bead on both balls but was unable to come up with either.

The Irish broke the game open in the fifth inning as they sent seven hitters to the plate before the Golden Flashes managed to get an out. Forrest Johnson’s double opened the inning and Kutsulis’ two-RBI single ended the parade as Notre Dame scored five runs in the inning and chased two pitchers in the process.

“That gave us little breathing room,” said Aoki. “I thought we did a good job of having some plate discipline and then hitting the fastball when it was delivered.”

That was all the Irish needed offensively as the pitching staff took care of the rest. Fresh off his NCAA basketball tournament appearance just four days ago, Notre Dame starter Pat Connaughton worked two scoreless innings before reaching his pre-determined pitch count. Matt Ternowchek relieved Connaughton and gave up Kent State’s lone run while picking up the win.

The Irish held the Golden Flashes (8-13) to three hits as they sent six pitchers to the mound, with staff ace and Andrean grad Adam Norton being one of the few exceptions. Norton did make his first place appearance of the season in a pinch-hitting role in the eighth inning. But the at-bat lasted only one pitch as he took a ball off the helmet.

“That was rough.” Norton said. “It was good to come back here. You always have to like coming home.”

Norton leads the Irish this season with a 6-0 record and a 1.44 ERA. He’s given up seven runs in 432/3 innings and has struck out 26 batters while issuing five walks.

“You look at the numbers and the record and Norty’s been outstanding,” said Aoki. “He’s commanding the ball even better than last year when I think he led the country in walks allowed.”



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