Feb. 21, 2016
By Russell Dorn
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A pair of errors and four runs allowed over the first four innings proved costly for the University of Notre Dame baseball team as the Irish fell to Santa Clara, 4-2, in the rubber game of a three-game series Sunday afternoon at Stephen Schott Stadium.
After getting shut out in Friday’s opener behind a gem from Irish pitcher Ryan Smoyer, Santa Clara kept its bats going from Saturday’s 2-0 win in Sunday’s contest by plating three runs over the first two innings. The Broncos capitalized on two Notre Dame errors in the first four batters to plate a pair in the opening frame. They scored what proved to be the game winner in the second inning on a sac fly.
In the other dugout, Notre Dame struggled to string together hits over the last two games of the series as it scored just two runs over the final 19 innings after scoring five runs in the first eight frames.
On Sunday, the Irish reached base in seven of the nine innings, but five of those times came with two outs.
Notre Dame had the bases loaded in the fourth inning with two outs, but a strikeout ended the threat. An inning later, the Irish placed runners at the corners with one out after singles by Cavan Biggio and Ricky Sanchez. However, a strike out and a sharp liner that found a glove ended another scoring opportunity.
The sixth inning proved to be Notre Dame’s best shot. Junior Torii Hunter Jr. continued his solid day at the plate as the designated hitter by drawing a five-pitch walk. Later in the frame freshman outfielder Matt Vierling cracked his first collegiate hit to move Hunter Jr. around to third and give Notre Dame runners at the corners for sophomore Jake Johnson. The Atlanta product came through with an RBI single to score Hunter Jr. and get Notre Dame on the board with two outs. No more runs would follow in the inning, however, as Santa Clara brought in RHP Peter Hendron, who recorded the final out of the frame to get his squad out of a jam.
In the eighth inning, Vierling added to his big day at the dish by bashing his first career homer – a solo shot – to cut the lead to 4-2. Notre Dame could get nothing else going though as Broncos relievers Hendron and Kuhns combined to allow just the one run over 3.1 innings of work.
Broncos starter Jason Seever (1-0) looked in control early and kept the Irish at bay for much of the afternoon, going 5.2 innings and allowing one run on six hits and three walks while striking out seven.
For Notre Dame, sophomore Sean Guenther (0-1) made his second career start and allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk in four innings on the bump.
At the plate, Vierling (2-3, HR, BB) and Hunter Jr. (1-3, BB, R) both turned in the best performances of their young careers. Elsewhere, Sanchez received the start at catcher and had a hit and walk.
Notre Dame (1-2) continues its non-conference slate next weekend at the annual Alamo Irish Classic in San Antonio, Texas (Nelson Wolff Stadium). The Irish will meet Incarnate Word (7:05 p.m. ET Thursday), Bradley (12:30 p.m. ET Friday), Texas Southern (12:30 p.m. ET Saturday) and Gonzaga (12 p.m. ET Sunday) during the four-day tournament.
For more information on the Notre Dame baseball, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).
Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.