Samardzija Brilliant in Irish Win

The Notre Dame baseball team needed a win in the worst possible way. Losers of five of the past six contest, the Irish saw their once formidable Big East lead shrink away. On Thursday afternoon against Villanova, pitcher Jeff Samardzija took it upon himself to deliver in a big-time way.

The junior hurler allowed just one run in eight-plus innings to lead the Irish past the Wildcats 3-1 at Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. The win pushed Notre Dame's record to 39-14-1 on the season, including 19-5-1 in the Big East. The scenario is now simple for the Irish: a win on either Friday or Saturday clinches the conference regular season title for the sixth time in 11 years. First-pitch tomorrow is at 4 p.m. Also, a loss by second-place Connecticut in one of their final two games would hand Notre Dame the championship.

Samardzija (6-2) was dominant on the mound, working into the ninth inning before leaving with contest with one out and one on. Reliever Mike Dury recorded the second out and freshman Kyle Weiland closed it out with a strikeout to record his 14th save in 15 opportunities this season. "The Shark" allowed just four hits and struck out seven. More importantly, he did not walk anyone and sat down the leadoff man in eight of nine innings.

The offense wasn't spectacular but was enough. Ross Brezovsky's RBI single in the third gave Notre Dame an early 1-0 lead. Samardzija's only mistake was in the fourth when he allowed Villanova's Ryan Arcadia to double and score two batters later to tie the game up at 1. Craig Cooper made it 2-1 Notre Dame in the fifth when he drew a walk and later scored on Jeremy Barnes two-out single. Steve Andres increased the Irish advantage to 3-1 in the sixth when he blasted a home run off of the Wildcats' Kevin Mulvey (3-8). It was Andres 18th career homer and was more than enough offense to support Samardzija's brilliant outing.

***The Notre Dame Sports Information Department contributed greatly to this report. Top Stories