It took less than 24 hours and only seven pitches for junior Charlie Markson to turn the tides for Notre Dame. Markson’s first inning home run erased the negative momentum of Wednesday’s blowout loss and sparked the Irish to a 9-0 win over Rutgers on the second day of the Big East tournament in Clearwater, Fla.
Irish junior Charlie Markson's first inning home run was all the offense Notre Dame would need Thursday morning.
The leftfielder was an offensive catalyst all day for Notre Dame. He started a two-run rally in the third inning and a four-run rally in the fifth. By the time Markson scratched out his second RBI of the game in the seventh, his team had staved off elimination and secured at least one more day of baseball this year.
“We were kind of down in the dumps after yesterday,” said Markson referring to the 12-2 loss to St. John’s and the 7-0 hole they dug in the first inning. “Coming out early was huge. Yesterday’s start was pretty demoralizing. We did that to [Rutgers] today in a little lesser of a way.”
Markson finished the day 4-for-5 with four runs scored and two RBI. He hit second in the batting order for the first time all year, which allowed him to set the table for the meat of the Irish lineup. Head coach Mik Aoki said he bumped Markson forward so he could get a different designated hitter in the game against Rutgers’ left-handed starter, Rob Smorol.
“The move was specifically because [DH Kevin] DeFilippis has been swinging the bat really well in batting practice,” Aoki said. “Obviously today it worked out really well for Charlie. He did a great job competing all game.”
No one in a Notre Dame uniform competed harder Thursday than starting pitcher Will Hudgins. The senior ace threw seven complete innings of shutout baseball despite not having good command of several of his pitches.
Hudgins worked out of jams in the second and third innings while Notre Dame held on to a slim lead. He picked up one of his five strikeouts to end the second with two runners in scoring position. The following inning he got junior Steve Zavala (38 RBI this season) to pop up with bases loaded to end another scoring threat.
“I think that’s where the game really swung in the second and third inning,” Hudgins said. “I think it made it a lot easier to make big pitches knowing that we already has some runs on the board and our offense had come alive.”
Notre Dame played small ball in the fifth inning to blow the game wide open. Markson led off with a single, then stole second to put himself in position to score of a double from sophomore Trey Mancini (2-for-4, 2 runs scored). A pair of fielding miscues from the Scarlet Knights and a pair of squeeze bunts by the Irish led to three more runs and a comfortable 7-0 lead.
Hudgins settled down with the big lead and threw 116 pitches before he bowed out at the start of the eighth inning. His long day allowed most of the Irish bullpen to rest, which is key for a team that has to win three games in the next two days to make it to the conference championship.
Notre Dame’s next game is Friday at 4 p.m. against Seton Hall. The Pirates lost to St. John’s 6-1 on Thursday to fall into the losers’ bracket.
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