Feb. 28, 2015
Box Score– Notre Dame 8, Mercer 2
Box Score– Notre Dame 5, Akron 4
MACON, Ga. – Saturday offered a little bit of everything for the University of Notre Dame baseball team, as the Irish clubbed four homers in an 8-2 win over Mercer in the afternoon session before scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to walk-off Akron in the night cap.
With the two wins, Notre Dame (10-1) swept the Mercer Baseball Classic to up its win streak to nine games and jump out to its best start since 2004 (12-1).
Leading the Irish all day was sophomore Cavan Biggio, who batted .750 with two homers, three RBI, three walks and four runs scored. He slugged 2.500 and had an on-base percentage of .778.
Senior Robert Youngdahl totaled a homer, three RBI and batted .500, while sophomore Kyle Fiala hit his first career homer as part of a three-hit day. He also scored three runs. Freshman Jake Johnson, senior Ryan Bull and juniors Lane Richards and Ricky Sanchez also notched two hits each.
On the mound, freshman Brandon Bielak (7.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 SO) and junior Nick McCarty (6.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 SO) both turned in quality starts to give the Irish an opportunity to win two games. In relief, freshman Sean Guenther looked impressive in 1.1 innings in game one, while freshman Brad Bass righted the ship over 2.2 innings in game two to pick up his first career win.
After winning 10 games during the month of February for the first time in school history, the Irish turn to Atlantic Coast Conference action next weekend, when it returns to the Peach State for a three-game set at defending ACC Tournament champion Georgia Tech (7-3).
GAME 1: Notre Dame 8, Mercer 2
The long ball was in full effect for the Irish Saturday afternoon against the host Mercer Bears, as Notre Dame cranked four home runs in an 8-2 victory to run its win streak to eight games.
With the wind blowing out at a facility that is 330-370-400-350-320 around the outfield, the Irish teed off on Mercer pitching to the tune of four homers in the first three innings. The four homers were the most for Notre Dame since it totaled four against West Virginia April 21, 2007.
In the opening frame, Mercer pitcher Connor Herd quickly recorded two outs. However, things went south in a hurry, as Biggio took a 2-2 pitch and lined it over the right-field fence to give the Irish an early 1-0 lead. After a Bull single, Youngdahl crushed a two-run homer down the right-field line to up the Notre Dame lead to 3-0. Both homers were the first of the year for the dynamic duo.
Two innings later, Fiala cracked the first homer of his career over the fence in right center to put the Irish in front 4-0.
Next man up was Biggio, who became the first Irish player to hit two homers in a game since Trey Mancini had a pair at Northwestern May 15, 2012, as the Houston, Texas hit a no doubter down the right-field line to up the Irish lead to 5-0.
Notre Dame’s last three runs came on a Bull RBI single to score Fiala and a Youngdahl RBI fielder’s choice to score Biggio in the fifth inning and a Biggio sac fly to plate Johnson in the ninth.
Biggio went 2-for-2 with two homers, two walks, three RBI and three runs scored, while Fiala went 3-for-5 with a homer, RBI and two runs scored. Youngdahl totaled two hits, three RBI and a run scored and Bull produced two hits, an RBI, walk and run scored.
Notre Dame’s top five hitters totaled 10 of its 11 hits in the game and all eight runs.
On the mound, Bielak (2-0) pitched a dandy, as the righty went 7.2 innings and allowed just two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six in 103 pitches to earn the quality start and the win.
“This whole season so far this team has brought their bats,” said Bielak on the offensive help. “One through nine we are really hitting the ball, I can’t complain at all about it.
“I was going out there just looking to throw strikes. We had a big lead, so I wanted to go out there and pound the zone. If they hit it, good for them, but I just kept bouncing out there and throwing strikes.”
The lefty Guenther entered in the eighth inning and struck out a batter with two runners on to get out of a Bear threat. He went 1.1 innings and allowed just a hit while striking out three.
Mercer cracked a pair of solo homers on the day as well, as Nate Moorhouse hit one over the right-field wall in the fourth inning and Danny Edgeworth tallied one over the right-field wall in the seventh.
The Bears used seven pitchers in the game with none going longer than two innings.
GAME 2: Notre Dame 5, Akron 4
Down 4-3 to Akron entering the bottom of the ninth, junior Lane Richards clubbed an RBI triple and later scored on a walk-off wild pitch to give the Irish a thrilling 5-4 win over the Zips to complete the weekend sweep.
“Obviously I wouldn’t want us to lose the game, but I’m glad to have been in that situation,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “A few of these wins we have done a great job of creating separation, but today was tight. I think Akron is a really good baseball team. I was happy to come away with the win, but I was happier still with how our guys kept grinding at it, kept battling. I thought it showed relentlessness and a lot of toughness, which are two of our pillars.”
Notre Dame entered the seventh inning up 3-1, but ran into trouble in the top half of the inning. Starter Nick McCarty had put together another solid outing before a tough seventh frame. Back-to-back singles and a fielding error by McCarty removed the junior from the game with the bases loaded.
Enter Guenther, who gave up a two-run double to tie the contest. After a walk and a sac fly gave the Zips a 4-3 lead, Bass came in and struck out back-to-back batters to get the Irish out of a huge jam.
The Irish got a runner on third with two outs and Biggio at the plate in the seventh inning, but Akron closer Matt LaRocca came through with a huge strikeout to keep the Zips on top. The Irish went down in order in the eighth to set up a thrilling ninth inning.
Notre Dame’s ninth began with Ricky Sanchez reaching base on a pop up fielding error by Akron’s third baseman. After senior Conor Biggio entered the game as a pinch runner, Richards stepped to the plate and took a 2-0 pitch and ripped it down the LF line to score Biggio from first and put the winning run 90 feet away. Youngdahl was up next and drew an eight-pitch walk to give Notre Dame runners on first and third and remove LaRocca from the game.
Daulton Mosbarger made the long jog in from right field to step on the mound and face J. Johnson. After one ball, Mosbarger sailed a ball to the back stop, allowing Richards to sprint home for the game winner.
“I thought we had really good at-bats,” said Aoki. “Lane obviously had a good at-bat. I thought Robert (Youngdahl) had a really good at-bat. We stuck to it and that’s the most important thing, to continue to play with belief and continue to play with confidence. This isn’t a game that’s set up to win every single time, it’s a game to give you some failure and I thought our guys did a phenomenal job. Today was a long day physically for them. To grind through those two games was pretty impressive.”
Bass (1-0) picked up his first career victory after hurling 2.2 innings of no-hit ball. The New Lenox, Illinois native struck out four batters and only walked one after a couple of tough outings to start his career.
Before the ninth inning, Notre Dame’s only other three runs of the game came all the way back in the first inning. With one out, Fiala reached base on a fielding error by the Akron shortstop. After Ca. Biggio was hit by a pitch and the base-running duo advanced to second and third, respectively, on a passed ball, Bull walked to load the bases.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director