GARY | By about February, Pat Connaughton started throwing bullpen sessions.
Between school and basketball practice at Notre Dame, the Irish two-sport athlete dedicated what time he had to prepare for the baseball season.
"Just getting my arm in shape, that's really the difficult part, and I work on it when I can," Connaughton said. "I don't really think about baseball until that basketball season is over. Whatever season I'm in, I'm fully committed to that season, and that's the best way to do it."
The sophomore pitched in his first start of the season Tuesday, four days after the basketball team fell to Iowa State in the NCAA tournament. Connaughton started and played 28 minutes against ISU.
Limited to a pitch count in Tuesday's baseball game against Kent State, he threw 17 pitches in the first inning and another 15 in the second. He walked none, didn't allow a hit and struck out a batter, leaving with a 0-0 tie in what would become an 8-1 Irish win.
"From here on out, we'll probably add about 15-20 pitches to the ledger each time out," Notre Dame coach Mik Aoki said. "He's such a talented kid on the mound. He wasn't quite sharp. I thought the breaking ball rolled a little bit. I thought the change-up he needs to center that a little more. His fastball had some life to it. It was good."
Connaughton started 10 games last season with a 4-4 record. His first start last season came March 20 when he threw 1 2/3 innings against Eastern Michigan.
After tying the game in the fourth inning at 1-1, Notre Dame scored on wild pitches from two Kent State pitchers en route to a five-run fifth inning. Three times in the fifth the Irish loaded the bases with none out.
Zak Kutsulis had three RBIs on 2-for-4 hitting. He also entered in the sixth inning to pitch, tossing 1 2/3 innings with three strikeouts.
Andrean grad Adam Norton entered the game with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning and was promptly hit by a pitch. He was relieved on the bases by a pinch runner. Kyle Richardson, who represented Norton's at bat, eventually scored.
"It's good to come back. You've always got to like coming home," Norton said. "I think everyone would like to play back where they're from."
The Golden Flashes struck first with a triple by sophomore left fielder Alex Miklos to open the fourth inning. He was sent home on a sacrifice fly by Evan Campbell in the next at bat.
Kent State scattered three hits on six Irish pitchers. Matt Ternowchek took the win for Notre Dame, going 3 2/3 innings.
The last time Kent State visited U.S. Steel Yard, the Golden Flashes were crowned the NCAA regional champions. The team went on to win the Super Regional before losing to South Carolina in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.