March 6, 2015
ATLANTA – Tied at two in the 10th inning of its Atlantic Coast Conference opener at defending ACC Tournament champion Georgia Tech, the University of Notre Dame baseball team recorded three singles, including the game winner from sophomore Kyle Fiala, to beat the Yellow Jackets, 3-2, and run its win streak to 10 games.
After the Yellow Jackets tied the game up at two in the seventh inning, neither team could cross the dish in the eighth or ninth frames to force the game into extras.
The Irish struck right away on pitcher Matthew Gorst, as junior Lane Richards and freshman Jake Johnson both tallied singles to give Notre Dame runners on the corners with two outs. Up stepped Fiala, who swung at a 2-2 pitch and smacked the ball right back up the middle to score Richards and give the Irish a 3-2 lead.
“You get in a situation like that and you want to have a competitive at-bat,” said Fiala. “You want to get a hit, but you especially want to have good contact and put a good swing on a ball and give your team a chance to win.”
In the bottom of the 10th, freshman Peter Solomon entered looking to earn his third save of the year and give his squad a huge ACC-opening victory. The Ellicott City, Maryland product gave up a leadoff single, but induced a line out double play to end the game and start the Irish handshakes in the middle of the field.
“That final inning after Lane gets the base knock, both Jake and Kyle had two strikes on them and they came up with hits,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “The compete level has been fantastic. We just want to keep that going.
“The win is great, but we are going to continue going one pitch at a time and try to compete at the very best we can. Certainly today we are really gratified to get the win, but we played really well and controlled all the things that we can control and we came out on top. That’s what we have to keep working on, divorcing ourselves of the outcomes and just keep competing pitch to pitch. We are doing a phenomenal job of doing that right now.”
The double play was the fourth of the game for the Irish and upped their ACC-leading total to 16 on the year. The total should also move them into the top five in Division I.
After putting together an impressive six innings, senior Scott Kerrigan ran into some trouble in the seventh. After tallying one out, Kerrigan issued a walk to Wade Bailey to bring up Matt Gonzalez. Gonzalez cracked a double to left center field to put runners at second and third and force Aoki to turn to freshman Brad Bass to try and get out of a jam.
In the first at-bat, Bass tossed a wild pitch to tie the game at two. However he quickly recorded a strike out and a ground out to keep Georgia Tech from taking its first lead of the game.
Following the rough start, Bass (2-0) settled the Irish down and looked in control for his final two innings to earn his second win in a row. He got the Yellow Jackets out 1-2-3 in the eighth and gave up just a single in the ninth, before forcing GT into another 643 double play to end any sort of threat.
“I think it (Bass’ effort over final two innings) was the living embodiment of the one pitch at a time mentality,” said Aoki. “He understood that what just occurred (wild pitch) doesn’t have to define what is about to occur. I thought he did great. He came in and pitched a couple of huge innings for us after getting out of that situation.
“He’s been in the strike zone,” said Aoki about his last two outings. “He’s got great stuff. It’s dynamic and electric. He is going to be an absolute beast for us during his time here. He is a tremendous kid and a tremendous competitor and he’s got the stuff to go along with it.”
Kerrigan picked up his second quality start of the season, as he gave up two runs on six hits and two walks in 6.1 innings of work. He struck out two and induced six groundouts and nine flyouts.
At the plate, senior Robert Youngdahl had a 3-for-4 day with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored to lead the Irish. Richards and Johnson both recorded two-hit days.
Notre Dame struck first in the game with a pair of runs in the second inning. After Ryan Bull earned a six-pitch walk, Youngdahl clocked his first double to left center field on two strikes to score Bull from first base. After back-to-back Irish outs, Richards continued his hot streak with an RBI single to left field to score Youngdahl from second and give Notre Dame a two-run cushion.
Georgia Tech cut the Irish lead in half with one pitch in the bottom half of the fourth inning, as freshman standout Kel Johnson cracked his fifth homer of the year to move him into a tie for third in Division I in that category.
Tech pitcher Jonathan King earned the no-decision by going seven innings and allowing two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out five Notre Dame batters.
First baseman Thomas Smith and Johnson recorded multi-hit days for the Yellow Jackets.
After going 7-13 in one-run games last year, the Irish are now 4-0 in that category this season. In addition, the Irish have reached 11 wins over a month faster than last year (April 8 vs. Chicago State). Their first road ACC win came in its 11th try (April 20 at No. 11 Miami) and its first try this season.
Notre Dame (11-1, 1-0 ACC) and the Yellow Jackets (9-4, 0-1 ACC) resume their series at 2 p.m. (ET) Saturday. Fans can watch the game on ESPN3 or listen live on WatchND (WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend). Links for both are on UND.com.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director