Niesel started the game looking like the Chris Niesel that Irish fans have grown to love. Niesel had his slider working and didn't give up a hit until Golden Flash Andrew Davis lofted a bloop single into left-center in the top of the third.
Sonnanstine was equally impressive on the mound with a vicious slider that kept Irish hitters chasing pitches all day.
The Golden Flashes scored first in the top of the fifth. Senior Adam Crowder led off the inning with a single to left-center. Right fielder Eric Holick then placed a sacrifice bunt advancing Crowder to second. Crowder was later knocked in on an Andrew Davis single down the right field line to give Kent State the early 1-0 lead.
The Irish battled back in the bottom of the seventh when sophomore Greg Lopez singled to right. Lopez then advanced to third on a Matt Sega two-base throwing error and was later knocked in on a Steve Sollmann sacrifice fly to tie the game 1-1.
Sega made up for the error by leading off the top of the eight with a double to right-center, and later scored when freshman Will Vasquez ripped a game-winning RBI single up the middle to give the Golden Flashes the 2-1 lead and eventual victory.
"We didn't have many hits," said Irish coach Paul Mainieri on the loss. "We didn't have many base runners. When we had them, they just couldn't score the runners. We left too many runners on base. I tip my hat to their kid. He was really outstanding. He upped his game a notch when he needed to."
Niesel actually pitched well, allowing just two runs in 7 1/3 innings pitched. The Irish just couldn't find an answer for Sonnanstine at the plate.
"It was a great effort by Chris Niesel," said Mainieri of Niesel's performance. . "I thought our defense was spectacular. Unfortunately we couldn't get enough hits."
" I thought I pitched OK," said Niesel. "It's just unfortunate that in the eighth inning I hung a curveball and the kid punished it. That's just the way it goes sometimes. I feel bad because I wasn't able to get the job done in the eighth inning today." /P>
The Irish will now face the loser of the second game on Friday between Arizona and Cal-Irvine at 11 AM on Saturday. If the Irish win that game, they will play another game on Saturday at 7:05 PM to try to advance to the Championship round.
"It was a very, very disappointing loss," Mainieri said. "I think this is the first time since I've been at Notre Dame that we've lost the opening game of the regional tournament. Certainly, it can be done. We've just got to take it one game at a time and get after them."
The Irish would have to win four straight to advance to the super regional.
Junior Grant Johnson (5-0, 1.54 ERA) will be on the mound Saturday morning trying to keep hope alive for the Irish.