April 15, 2017
By Michael Scholl
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina — The Notre Dame baseball team dropped a slugfest to one of the best offensive teams in the country on Saturday, falling 12-7 to No. 20 Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons hit four home runs on the afternoon, scoring three runs in the second, third and fifth to pull away. It clinches the three-game set for Wake Forest.
Matt Vierling led the Irish efforts at the dish. The sophomore went 2-for-2 with three RBI. Cole Daily and Jake Johnson added two hits apiece as every Irish starter had at least one hit except for leadoff hitter Nick Podkul. Podkul did get hit by a pitch and score, extending his on-base streak to 22 games.
Graduate student Michael Hearne struggled with the potent Demon Deacon lineup, allowing seven runs in four innings. The five Irish relievers who followed allowed six more runs.
After the Deacons got the early lead on Friday, the Irish returned the favor on Saturday. Podkul was hit by a pitch to start the game, then Johnson followed with a single up the middle. Kyle Fiala bunted the pair over before Vierling hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 1-0. Lidge added the extra run with a single up the middle to score Johnson. Daily drew a four-pitch walk, but Connor Power went down swinging to end the frame with the Irish up 2-0 before Hearne even took the mound.
Wake Forest took the lead on one swing of the bat in the second. Ben Breazeale and Johny Aiello hit consecutive one-out singles before Bruce Steele connected for his ninth homer of the year to make it 3-2. Hearne got a strikeout and popout to end the frame and keep the score at 3-2.
Notre Dame tied things up in the third. Fiala got it started with an infield single before Vierling was hit by a pitch. Lidge bunted, but Fiala was retired at third for the first out. Daily then dumped a single into right, just above the second baseman, to load the bases. Power drove a fly ball to deep center, scoring Vierling. The inning ended with Jung smashing a ball up the middle the deflected off the pitcher’s glove and right to the shortstop for the third out.
The hosts used the long ball again in the third to hang another three-spot. Jake Mueller hit a one-out single before Stewart Fairchild homered down the left field line to make it 5-3. Gavin Sheets followed with a solo shot to left-center, making it 6-3.
The Irish got it back to a one-run game in the fourth thanks to Vierling. It all happened with two outs and started with an infield single by Johnson. Fiala then deposited a pitch into center for a single and Vierling went the other way for a double down the right-field line, scoring Johnson and Fiala. That chased Wake Forest starter Donnie Sellers from the game, with John McCarren entering and striking out Lidge to end the frame.
Three continued to be the magic number for Wake. Mueller starting the inning with a single to left, bringing Mik Aoki to the mound for a pitching change as Ryan Smoyer entered. Stuart Fairchild doubled to right-center before Gavin Sheets homered to right-center, making it 9-5.
Wake extended the lead in the seventh. Breazeale started the inning with a single, then Aiello doubled and Steel walked to load the bases. Keegan Maronpot singled through the left side to make it 10-6. Logan Harvey followed with a sacrifice fly to score Aiello and push the lead to 11-6.
Game three of the series is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday at David F. Couch Ballpark. Broadcasts are available on ACC Network Extra, WatchND and 103.1 FM.
— 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.