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Fiala Leads As Irish Drop Heartbreaker

Feb. 26, 2017

Box Score | Box Score (PDF)

By Michael Scholl

SAN DIEGO — The University of Notre Dame baseball team used a five-run seventh to take a late lead, but dropped a heartbreaking 7-6 decision to San Diego State in the finale of the Tony Gwynn Classic.

Senior co-captain Kyle Fiala led the Irish effort, going 4-for-5 including a two-run, inside-the-park home run in the five-run seventh. Nick Podkul was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Key Innings

Top First
Fiala got the Irish started right with a single up the middle to open the game. The senior then stole second base and scored on a two-out single to right by Matt Vierling.

Bottom First
In the early part of the season, the Irish have struggled to come up with shutdown innings, holding the opponent off the scoreboard in the frame immediately after Notre Dame scores. This time, Solomon delivered to preserve the 1-0 lead. After hitting the first batter, Solomon got a flyout and popout, issued a walk, then induced a groundout to keep it at 1-0.

Bottom Second
The Aztecs did manage to tie the game in the second inning. Julian Escobedo reached on a one-out single. He then stole second on a bizarre play where be broke before Solomon delivered the pitch, but shortstop Michael Feliz couldn’t handle the throw and Escobedo was safe. Dean Nevarez then reached after swinging at strike three off the plate. He reached on the wild pitch when the Irish first baseman, Alex Kerschner, couldn’t handle the throw from Lidge and Escobedo came around to score on the error. Solomon maintained his composure and got Chase Calabuig to ground out to end the frame and keep it tied at one.

Bottom Four
Jordan Verdon single-handedly put San Diego State on top in the fourth. The first baseman led off with a triple to the rightfield corner, then scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-1 Aztecs.

Bottom Five
The Aztecs opened the lead up further in the fifth after Solomon had retired the first two hitters of the inning. Trejo singled to right, followed by another single through the right side from Brown. The ball was misplayed by Shepski in right, allowing Trejo to score. Danny Sheehan followed with another single, scoring Brown. After a walk, Solomon ended the damage with a strikeout, holding the SDSU lead at 4-1.

Top Seventh
The Irish finally got the big inning they had been searching for. Connor Power started the frame with a double. After Shepski flew out, Kerschner walked and Ryan Lidge singled home Power. That ended the night for Dominic Purpura, as he gave way to Marcus Reyes. Patrick McDonald heard his name called by Mik Aoki and scored Kerschner with a sac fly. Kyle Fiala then delivered the big blow, driving a ball to deep right-center that carried over the head of the centerfielder and gave Fiala an inside-the-park home run. After Jake Johnson walked, another SDSU pitching changed was followed by an RBI double from Podkul before Matt Vierling flew out to end the inning with the Irish on top, 6-4.

Bottom Eighth
The hosts retook the lead in the eighth. After a leadoff walk and sac bunt, Tyler Adkison pinch hit and sent a high pop-up down the right field line. Shepski got to it, but over-ran the ball and it dropped in for a bloop double. After Guenther set Nevarez down on strikes to end the frame, Chase Calabuig sent a single up the middle past a diving Cole Daily at short to score a pair. It was 7-6 Aztecs going to the ninth and that would be the final margin.

Game Notes

  • Fiala’s inside-the-park home run was the first by an Irish hitter since Feb. 19, 2016, when Cavan Biggio took a sprint around the bases in a 5-0 win at Santa Clara.
  • Junior Alex Kerschner made his first collegiate start. The Wisconsinite was not on the roster his first two years at Notre Dame and saw his first action last weekend in San Antonio, drawing a pair of walks after pinching hitting in the Sunday game against Saint Louis.
  • The only previous meeting between Notre Dame and SDSU came in 2004, a 7-1 Irish victory in the season opener at Southern Cal’s Dedeaux Field.

On Deck

The Irish return to Cary, North Carolina, for the USA Baseball-Irish Classic at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. Notre Dame will take on Maryland, UMass Lowell, Rhode Island and Monmouth over the weekend. All four games can be heard live on WatchND.

— 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.