Feb. 20, 2015
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The runs came early and often for the University of Notre Dame baseball team Thursday night against Incarnate Word, as the Irish blitzed the Cardinals, 14-1, in the opening game of the Irish Alamo Invitational at Nelson W. Wolff Stadium.
Riding the momentum of an impressive opening weekend at Oklahoma, the Irish (4-1) had no trouble with UIW, as they scored multiple runs in six innings, including in each of the first four frames. Notre Dame was helped by a Cardinal pitching staff that struggled all night to find the strike zone. The Cardinals used seven pitchers, none of which turned in more than 1.2 innings of work. They walked 10 Irish batters and hit six others in addition to giving up 13 hits.
“There is something about our plate appearances right now. We are making pitchers work,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “We are staying disciplined. We are doing a good job with our two-strike approach, much like we did last weekend and in particular those last two games against Oklahoma. I like the way our at-bats are right now. I think they are incredibly competitive. Even our outs by and large are competitive outs. Pitchers have to make pitches to get this team out.
“I like the way that we came out and played well behind Michael (Hearne), who I didn’t think had his best stuff tonight. He competed his way through it though. That’s a sign of a good pitcher when you see them go out there and compete even when they don’t have their best stuff and still come up with a W.”
Every Irish starter recorded either a hit or drove in a run. Junior Zak Kutsulis led the squad with a perfect 4-for-4 day at the plate. He notched a run and a walk while scoring four runs. The four hits tied a career high, while the four runs set a new career standard.
“I think he relaxed a little bit from last weekend,” said Aoki. “I think midway through last weekend he was pressing just a little bit but he let the game come to him tonight. He had some great two-strike hitting in that second to last at-bat to take that ball down the left-field line. He looked comfortable. He was making guys come into the strike zone. He stayed disciplined. It was good to see him get going because we are going to need him. I think he is going to turn himself into a really, really good first baseman, a game-changing first baseman for us and we really need that.”
“I was seeing the ball really well tonight,” said Kutsulis. “I got lucky a few times with balls finding a gap, but overall I was seeing it really well and just swung away.”
Elsewhere, sophomore Cavan Biggio continued his tear at the plate with two hits, two walks, an RBI and two runs scored, while sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge did the same with two hits, two RBI, a walk and two runs scored. Leadoff hitter Jake Johnson notched a sac fly and two hit by pitch, while senior shortstop Phil Mosey almost went the entire night without an official at-bat, as he registered a walk, sac fly, hit by pitch and another sac fly before succumbing to a strikeout in his last plate appearance of the night.
On the mound, junior Michael Hearne picked up the win and a quality start after going six innings and giving up just one run on six hits and three walks. Relievers Ryan Smoyer (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB) and Scott Tully (2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 SO) pitched the final three frames.
The Cardinals threatened a couple of different times early in the contest, but the Irish defense came through in a big way. In the third inning, Hearne walked back-to-back UIW batters before inducing a foul out to Kutsulis at first base to end the threat. An inning later, Incarnate Word placed runners at the corners with one out before a quick ground out to Hearne and a fly out to Hudgins in centerfield snuffed out another scoring opportunity. A 1-4-3 double play ended the fifth inning with the Irish already up 8-1.
“It (this performance) was really nice to see coming off a good weekend last weekend,” said Kutsulis. “We continued it and never let up. Our leadership is really helping us maintain this momentum. Everyone is rooting for everyone else. Someone has a bad at-bat, they are bouncing right back out to the field. We are picking each other up. It’s great to see.”
Notre Dame gets right back to action with a 3:35 p.m. ET (2:25 p.m. CT) Friday contest against long-time BIG EAST foe Villanova at Nelson W. Wolff Stadium. Fans can follow the game through WatchND’s audio broadcast or by listening to WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend. Live stats on UND.com and live updates from @NDBaseball on Twitter are also available.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director