April 16, 2016

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By Ben Auwaerter

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On a beautiful Saturday afternoon at a jam-packed Frank Eck Stadium, the University of Notre Dame baseball team used another outstanding effort on the mound and more timely hitting to defeat the Boston College Eagles, 4-1, and secure the three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series with one game to play.

Similar to Friday night when Irish RHP Peter Solomon went toe-to-toe with Eagle RHP Jacob Stevens, Saturday’s affair was a pitcher’s duel between two more elite pitchers in Notre Dame LHP Sean Guenther and BC RHP Justin Dunn.

Neither team could crack the scoreboard in the first four innings, but the Irish broke the game open with a three-run fifth inning.

With one out in the fifth, junior Cavan Biggio reached on a walk and advanced to second base on sophomore Jake Shepski’s single to right field. After Boston College reliever, Bobby Skogsbergh, entered the game, both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Biggio scored the first run of the day when senior Zak Kutsulis drove him home on a sacrifice fly.

The Irish extended their lead to 3-0 when freshman Matt Vierling took advantage of a dropped pop up in foul territory that extended his at-bat by launching his fourth homerun of the season to left field.

“The change in velocity going from Dunn to the next guy [Skosbergh] was significant,” said Vierling. “I just kept my approach and tried to stay the other way.”

Guenther (3-3) did not need much run support, as he tossed 6.2 innings while only conceding one run on six hits to pick up his fourth quality start of the season. He walked none and struck out five batters.

“That fastball-changeup mix is really good and difficult to deal with. It’s especially good with a player who is commanding the fastball inside on the righties,” said head coach Mik Aoki.

The Eagles inched closer when catcher Nick Sciortino hit a solo homerun to left-center field to make the score 3-1. But that would be the only run allowed by Irish pitching all day.

Notre Dame added a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out, Biggio knocked a bloop single to right field. Shepski then reached base on a well-placed bunt single. Kutsulis grounded a hard-hit single to center field that scored Biggio and made the score 4-1.

Sophomore Brandon Bielak closed out the game for the Irish and was credited with a seven-out save. He did not allow a run or a hit over 2.1 innings.

On the day, Cavan Biggio went 1-2 with two runs, two walks and a stolen base. He ranks second in the ACC and in the top-five nationally in walks with 39.

The game was also the fourth-annual ALS game, with all proceeds going to the Pete Frates #3 Fund. A season-high 1,625 fans packed The Eck to cheer one the Irish and support the great cause.

“That is as good of a crowd as I think I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Aoki. “That was great. I can’t thank the people who came out enough for helping us with this. Hopefully, we were able to spread awareness and raise a little bit of money.”

Notre Dame (20-12, 8-7 ACC) has now won 12 of its last 14 games and is 10-2 at home in 2016.

“Coach Aoki has been talking about walking a fine line between playing loose and staying in the game,” noted Vierling after the game. “We are at a perfect balance of having a really good time, but also getting timely hitting, pitching and defense. Everyone is on board with the plan and it’s really fun.”

The Irish look to complete the three-game sweep at 1:05 p.m. (ET) Sunday. Fans can watch the game live on ESPN3’s video broadcast or listen to the audio broadcast on WatchND or WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend.

For more information on the Notre Dame baseball, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).

Ben Auwaerter is a freshman at Notre Dame and is from Lutherville, Maryland. He previously worked during the summer of 2014 with the Baltimore Orioles public relations office.