After Wednesday's disappointing loss, the Irish bounced back with a gem of a game as Samardzija and Whittington combined for a shutout, and the Irish score 10 runs, on 13 hits and recorded another errorless game in their 34th victory of the season.
The Irish got things goings early at the plate in the bottom of the first when shortstop Matt Macri and leftfielder Steve Andres reached safely after being hit by a pitch. Both were later knocked in on a Javi Sanchez double down the left-field line giving the Irish the 2-0 lead.
The Irish added five more in the third fueled by a Sanchez RBI single and a bases-clearing double by third baseman Matt Edwards to give the Irish the 7-0 lead.
Edwards would later hit a two-run homer over the right field wall to give him a season-high 5 RBI on the night. The Edwards homer was his first in 19 games.
The Irish were led by Edwards (3-for-4, 5 RBI, HR 3 R) and Sanchez (2-for-4, 2 RBI, R) at the plate, and also got a boost from two reserves seeing action in freshman Mike Dury (2-for-4, RBI) and sophomore Alex Nettey (2-for-4).
Nettey also contributed with his glove recording two diving catches in centerfield that would've made "Web Gems" on SportsCenter. Nettey's grabs were the two best defensive plays seen this year by any Irish player.
"We haven't seen plays like that in center field for a couple of years since Steve Stanley left," said Irish Coach Paul Mainieri of the plays Nettey made in centerfield. "Those were two tremendous plays. I told him Tuesday night after the game that he was going to play the next three ballgames and I wanted to see him go out there an impact the game. I thought he played really well out there in center field. He's going to play tomorrow night, see how he looks and decide what we're going to do after that."
Freshman pitcher Jeff Samardzija (3-2) was outstanding on the mound on Thursday and turned in his best performance of the season. The right-hander scattered five hits, recorded three strikeouts and walked none in seven scoreless innings. Matt Whittington secured the shutout holding Manchester scoreless in the final two innings.
"It was really important for us to get a good performance from somebody on the mound," said Mainieri. "Jeff (Samardzija) was supposed to pitch Friday night and I was talking to him this morning and his attitude is "hey Coach, give me the ball, I'll get us a win.' He did it. He was only pitching on three days rest, but Jeff went out there and did the job for us.
"Not only did he pitch well, but he did it very efficiently so we could seven innings out of him. Fortunately we were able to get a few hits and score some runs."
"He just asked if I was ready to go and I felt I was," said Samardzija. "I felt pretty good—no soreness on four days rest. I was all for it. If we needed a big win, I was hoping he'd ask me."
Samardzja threw just 81 pitches (55 for strikes) in seven innings on Thursday night. "I just tried to throw strikes and locate the fastball," said Samardzija. "That kind of got away from me last weekend—I wasn't locating the fastball too well, and I definitely wasn't working my off-speed well. I think I threw my curveball for mostly strikes tonight so that was good."
Mainieri was also pleased to see Edwards clobbering the ball again. "We need to start getting some offense from somebody," said Mainieri. "Our offense has been so up and down. We've had some games in the last week, that if we'd swung the bats the way we are capable of swinging, we'd have won some of these games.
"We've just got to get some guys hot, and I'm hoping that after tomorrow night's game, we have a little break, the guys get through school, that it will rejuvenate some of them--let's just concentrate on baseball for the last 12 games of the season and through the post-season. We've got to get some guys locked in and that's what I'm counting on."
The Irish will play their fourth game in four days on Friday before taking the week off for finals week. It appears Joe Thaman, Grant Johnson and Ryan Doherty will get the bulk of the action on the mound on Friday. "Johnson's probably going to go a maximum of two innings tomorrow," Mainieri said. "I'm leaning towards starting Joe Thaman. Ryan Doherty should be able to give us a couple of innings."
"It's short rest for him," said Mainieri when asked why Johnson would only go two innings. "With his rehabilitation, we would prefer for him to pitch on six days rest. Since he pitched on Sunday and this is Friday, it's only four days rest. We want to get him back on the mound and keep him sharp, but since it's only four days, we don't want to extend him a long ways. And then when we go to Connecticut, the following weekend, he'll be a game one starter."