The Notre Dame baseball team might not have had a lot to play for in their game against USC on Tuesday, but you'd never know it by their effort on the field.
Every Irish starter collected at least one hit, and seven Irish hitters picked up at least one RBI in an offensive explosion—their second in two days.
The efficiency didn't stop there as the Irish played well defensively, despite two errors in the field, and were led by two spectacular catches by centerfielder Alex Nettey. Nettey's theatrics likely could've led off the highlights on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" for the evening as the junior laid out for two diving catches on Trojans fly balls that ended up being some key plays in the game. Nettey also had a solid night at the plate for Notre Dame.
Sophomore Derik Olvey started for the Irish on the mound and pitched 4 1/3 innings before giving way to the bullpen. The bullpen—usually considered a weakness--pitched 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief allowing just one hit in relief of Olvey.
But it was the Irish firepower at the plate that stole the show on Tuesday.
Freshman Tony Langford hit his third homer of the season, a crushing two-run blast over the left field wall in the bottom of the fourth, and also pitched a scoreless, hitless inning of relief. Langford finished the night 3-for-5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI on the evening from the DH spot.
A host of other Irish regulars had impressive nights at the plate including Craig Cooper (3-for-5, R, 2 RBI), Brett Lilley (2-for-5, R, 2 RBI), Matt Edward (2-for-3, R), Alex Nettey (2-for-4, 3 R, RBI) and Greg Lopez (2-for-4, 2 R, RBI).
The Irish have back-to-back outstanding hitting performances after struggling at the plate in the first two games at Pittsburgh last week. Irish head coach Paul Mainieri says he can't explain why his team can be so inconsistent at times.
"I've been in this game my whole life. I wish I could explain it," said Mainieri on his team's inconsistent play this season. "On Saturday in the doubleheader against Pittsburgh we couldn't get a clutch hit all day. The next day we must've had seven or eight in the first three innings and tonight we got a bunch of clutch hits.
"It's obvious our players have the ability to do it, and it's just a matter of them being more consistent in doing it. I thought tonight we played a really outstanding game offensively, but really in every aspect."
Mainieri also said he was pleased with his team's pitching on Tuesday.
"I thought Olvey did a good job," Mainieri said. "He hung in there and kept us in the game, and I thought our bullpen did an outstanding job."
Sophomore Jeff Manship came into the game in the ninth to finish the game and he looked outstanding on the mound. Manship retired the Trojans on just six pitches to finish the game.
"He threw awesome at St. John's," said Mainieri of Manship. "That's (tonight) is the Manship we recruited as the best player coming out of Texas.
"We're probably going to use him in some closing situations just because he doesn't have the endurance built up (to pitch a lot of innings). My feeling is, why not use him in the game when he's going to have the greatest effect on the game?
"He might be more of an extended closer. He could come in in the seventh or eighth inning and go two or three innings. That's probably the way that I'll use him. Hopefully we'll have a situation like that this weekend where I can use him."
The Irish will be back at Frank Eck Stadium again on Wednesday to close out their two-game series with USC with the final game beginning at 6 PM. Freshman Wade Korpi is scheduled to start for the Irish on the mound.