With the BIG EAST Championship on the line, the Irish entered Saturday's game hoping to close out their season on a winning streak.
The Irish started junior Chris Niesel on the mound and Niesel struggled most of the game, allowing six runs on 10 hits in five innings of work. Niesel appeared to be getting squeezed at the plate as many of his pitches that are usually considered strikes were called balls by the home plate umpire on Saturday.
Niesel closed the first inning facing only three hitters, but gave up two in the second, one in the third, and three in the fifth before being pulled in the sixth.
The Irish started off well at the plate as Matt Macri led off the bottom of the first with a towering home run to straight away center. Steve Sollman then reached on an error and was later knocked in on a Craig Cooper double giving the Irish the 2-0 early lead.
The Irish scored four more in the bottom of the third when Matt Macri hit his second solo shot over the left field wall. Sollmann would single, designated hitter Matt Bransfield would walk, catcher Javi Sanchez then doubled and Cooper also homered to plate three more runs in the inning to give the Irish the early 6-3 lead.
The Hokies battled back to score three more in the top of the fifth to tie the game, 6-6.
The Irish answered the call in the bottom of the sixth as Macri, Sollmann and Cooper all singled in the inning. Right fielder Cody Rizzo would then single to score the fourth and final run of the inning right before the massive rains came.
And, the rain did come—and a lot of it. Two hours and fifteen minutes would pass before the game would resume. The Irish went into their dugout with the 10-6 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
When the game resumed, the Irish were a different team. They didn't hit, field, run the bases or pitch like the Irish we've seen all year.
Jeff Samardzija entered the game to try to close out the final three innings. Samardzija gave up five runs, including back-to-back homers in just 1/3 of an inning pitched to give the Hokies the 11-10 lead.
The Irish tried to fight back in the bottom of the ninth, but left the bases loaded when Matt Bransfield flew out to the first basemen to end the Irish winning streak, losing the game 11-0 to Virginia Tech.
Irish coach Paul Mainieri was noticeably upset with his team after Saturday's game. "We played awful before the rain delay," said Mainieri. "The whole day was just a very bad baseball game by us. It was the worst baseball game we've played in a very, very long time.
"They wanted to win a lot more than we did today—it's amazing. Their kids played a lot harder than we did today. You have to give credit to their coach. Point the finger at me--I didn't have my team ready to play today."
"I wish I had an answer for it," said Mainieri when asked what he thought the problem was. "We made more base-running mistakes in one game today then I think we've made in the last two months. Our defense was not very good. We threw to the wrong base and made critical errors.
"The only thing we did well was hit. We got some hits in the clutch. But, in every other aspect, we played terrible. We pitched terrible, we played averaged defense at best, and we ran the bases like our heads were cut off."
Ironically, the Irish did capture the BIG EAST regular season title thanks to Pittsburgh's loss to St. John's (6-5) on Saturday. The Irish will play in the early game on Thursday in the Big East Tournament (3:30 EDT). Notre Dame will play one of Seton Hall, Boston College or Pittsburgh depending on Sunday's results in BIG EAST action.