Feb. 25, 2017
By Michael Scholl
SAN DIEGO — The University of Notre Dame baseball team fell victim to the big inning on Friday night, falling to the University of San Diego, 6-2, in the Tony Gwynn Classic.
Kyle Fiala recorded an RBI for the Irish (1-5), while Jake Johnson had a double and scored. Michael Hearne was stellar in relief to keep Notre Dame within striking distance, allowing just five hits and one unearned run in 4.1 innings. Nick Sprengel earned the win for USD (2-2), holding the visitors to two hits in five innings. Troy Conyers struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save.
The Toreros jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but all told the Irish were happy to escape allowing one run. Jeff Houghtby opened the frame with a double on a chopper to third which took a bad hop over Michael Feliz and rolled into foul territory. Colton Waltner followed by reaching on an error by the second baseman, moving Houghtby up to third. With three-hole hitter Riley Adams up, Bielak fell while delivering a pitch, balking home a run. Bielak settled down, striking out Adams before sandwiching a pop out and strikeout around a walk to get out of the frame with USD up, 1-0.
The Irish tied the game in the third thanks to a big two-out double by Fiala. Nick Neville sparked the rally with a single up the middle and stolen base. He moved to third on a wild pitch and after Feliz struck out, Fiala drilled a double off the wall in left-center to score Neville. The inning ended on a groundout by Podkul who was called out on a bang-bang play at first after the USD third baseman made a nice play in behind the bag to pick the chopper.
San Diego answered right back in the bottom of the frame. Bielak hit Houghtby to start the inning, then Waltner doubled him home. Adams drew a walk before Hunter Mercado-Hood hit the second double of the inning to score Waltner. Bielak got a strikeout of Brhet Bewley, but Jay Schuyler sent a single up the middle to score both runners and make it 5-1 USD.
The Irish threatened but were unable to answer back. Jake Shepski drew a leadoff walk, followed by a strikeout and flyout. Eric Gilgenbach and Ryan Lidge drew two-out walks to load the bases, but Neville struck out to end the frame, preserving the 5-1 Torero lead.
Trailing by four going to its last at-bat, the first two hitters of the inning reached on a throwing error by the USD second baseman and a walk. The Toreros went to their closer, Troy Conyers, who struck out Podkul and Shepski. Matt Vierling loaded the bases with a base hit up the middle, but Connor Power went down on strikes to end the game.
- Notre Dame won both of the previous meetings with San Diego, most recently a 2-0 win at the 2003 NCAA Fullerton Regional. The only other meeting came at USD, a 2-0 Irish win.
- Freshman Michael Feliz made his first career start, with Mik Aoki writing the rookie’s name in the nine hole and playing him at third.
- Jake Johnson, who was 1-for-2 at the plate is now hitting a team-best .429 on the season.
The Irish conclude the weekend at the Tony Gwynn Classic with a return to Tony Gwynn Stadium, this time to face co-host San Diego State. First pitch is set for 9 p.m. ET and the game can be heard live on WatchND and on 103.1 FM in South Bend.
— ND —
Michael Scholl joined Fighting Irish Media in August 2016, coordinating communications for the baseball program and assisting with the football team at his alma mater. The South Bend native earned a degree in political science from the College of Arts & Letters in 2009 before going on to work in athletics communications at Providence College, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.