The Irish started junior Grant Johnson on the mound. Johnson (5-0) was outstanding, pitching seven innings, allowing zero runs and just two hits. Johnson lowered his ERA to 1.58 on the year and would be ranked eighth in the country in ERA if he had enough innings.
Johnson used his breaking pitch more on Friday than any time during the season and the results were strikeouts as Johnson logged nine in seven innings on the mound.
Matt Macri got the Irish started early in the five-run first with a walk in the bottom of the first. Second baseman Steve Sollmann then placed a beautiful bunt single to get on and advance Macri. Both players later stole second and third on a double steal, and were knocked in on two consecutive sacrifice flies to give the Irish the early 2-0 lead.
The Irish weren't done in the inning as Steve Andres delivered with a two-out single. Left fielder Craig Cooper then ripped a double down the right field line to score Andres. First baseman Matt Edwards then walked and two straight singles by Cody Rizzo and Greg Lopez plated both Cooper and Edwards to give the Irish the early 5-0 lead.
The Irish needed only one run on the evening as Johnson was masterful on the mound. His only trouble came in the top of the seventh as he walked the first hitter he faced. Hokie right fielder Matt Kalish then singled as Johnson struggled to find his control. He then walked the next hitter he faced loading the bases with no outs.
Johnson then buckled down and delivered three straight strikeouts to close the seventh and end the Hokie threat.
"I've had a lot of those (situations) this year and I take it upon myself to get out of the problems that I create," said Johnson of his performance.
Johnson said he was happy his slider was working for him on the evening. "Big situations, we needed a second pitch tonight and the changeup wasn't working so we went to the slider. It was working pretty well so we kept going back to it," he said.
"When I get a little bit juiced up I focus a little bit better, I throw a little bit harder," said Johnson of working out of the jam in the seventh. "Things get by guys that usually don't—I guess I get lucky some times," he said jokingly.
"I thought he had really good command tonight," said Irish coach Paul Mainieri of Johnson's performance "When he was warming up for the first inning, it didn't look like he was really loose and letting it go. As soon as the game started, his command was great. I thought he threw some outstanding sliders. He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. Once you get a lead with him on the mound, you feel pretty confident with your chances."
Probably the most impressive performance of the game was watching the Irish hitters attack Virginia Tech in the bottom of the first. The Irish looked unbeatable in the first. That first inning by us I thought was an outstanding inning," said Mainieri. "I thought we had nine quality at-bats. It was textbook baseball, really. After Javi drove in the second run, we started the inning all over with two outs. Those are the things that don't show up statistically, but really help you win a lot of games, when guys are getting big two-out hits, moving runners up, I think we're playing pretty good baseball."
The Irish are playing pretty good baseball as evidence of their 12 straight victories. Notre Dame will be back at Eck Stadium today trying to clinch the BIG EAST championship with a victory over the Hokies at 12:05 PM.