Notre Dame edged out a close 6-4 win against struggling Chicago State by riding quality pitching from freshman right-hander Adam Norton, sophomore right-hander Will Hudgins and senior left-hander David Mills on a night when the bats seemed to be a bit quiet.
"I want to tip my cap to Norton, Hudgins and Mills, because they pitched really well for us today because our hitters were not very focused against their pitchers," Irish coach Dave Schrage said. "We hit too many fly balls and we got away with this win. We need to be more focused at the plate."
Chicago State (1-23, 0-3 Great West) has only one win this season, and Schrage said the Irish (12-19, 2-7 Big East) were hoping for a more dominant result.
"At this point I don't know what to expect. I mean, it's a win," Schrage said.
Norton got the start somewhat unexpectedly as junior right-hander Cole Johnson was expected to return to the mound after suffering a shoulder injury three weeks ago.
However, after feeling soreness during warm-ups, Johnson was a late scratch. In his second career start, Norton pitched well in four and one-third innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits and two walks.
"Norton is changing speeds well and I really think that he just got tired," Schrage said.
The Irish jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against Chicago State with an RBI double from senior left fielder Ryan Connolly and an RBI single from senior center fielder Brayden Ashdown.
Schrage said he was impressed with Ashdow, who went 2 for 5 with three RBI's for the game.
"Brayden is really coming on in the last few weeks," Schrage said. "In the last two weeks he has gotten really hot and he looks comfortable in there."
Chicago State took the lead away from the Irish 3-2 in the top of the fifth inning with singles from junior second baseman Mike Carpen (1 RBI) and senior shortstop Austin McDowell (2 RBIs), but the inning was ended by an outstanding 4-6-3 double play.
The Irish then retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning with a two-RBI double from Ashdown.
Hudgins came on in relief for Norton and also went four and one-third innings, giving up only one earned run on four hits.
"Hudgins is really keeping the ball down well. The slider was good," Schrage said.
The Irish would add two more runs in the sixth and seventh innings, which proved to be the difference in the game as Chicago State could only add one more run in the seventh.
Schrage said he is worried about his team's preparation for its weekend conference series against Seton Hall.
"As a coach you rant and rave before the game about getting ready, and it is just human nature for them not to think that they are going to win the game because they are not very good," he said. "There better be a sense of urgency this weekend because we have some work to do."
Notre Dame faces Seton Hall Friday at 6 p.m. in East Orange, N.J.