Feb. 14, 2015
NORMAN, Okla. – The University of Notre Dame baseball team plated 10 runs, including six in the fourth inning, to take down the Oklahoma Sooners, 10-9, Saturday night at L. Dale Mitchell Park and force the rubber game in the series Sunday afternoon.
The Irish (2-1) jumped all over the Sooners (2-1) early to take a 10-2 lead into the seventh inning. However, OU wouldn’t go away, as it scored three runs in the seventh inning and four more in the ninth to trim the Irish lead to one. With the tying run on second and the winning run at the dish, sophomore pitcher Ryan Smoyer induced a pair of fly outs to give the Irish another thrilling win to start the year.
After going 7-13 in one-run games a year ago, Notre Dame is 2-0 to start this season.
“Off the field, our team chemistry is off the charts this year,” said sophomore Cavan Biggio. “Everyone is really close to each other, the camaraderie is very special. On the field, we had some young pitchers come out and they battled and then Smoyer came in and we were able to slow things down in the end and we were able to get those two big outs. That’s the thing this year, we are going to have to bear down and finish games and not score runs early and let it fall off. This is a good team and I think we are going to come together this year.”
Freshman Brandon Bielak (1-0) had a solid outing to pick up his first career victory. The Sayreville, New Jersey native went 5.0 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks. He struck out two in 92 pitches.
“You’re always nervous that first start, whether you get it opening day or opening weekend,” said Bielak. “You just have to go out there and play the game. I went out there and played. Everybody wants to win like we did. Baseball, it’s a funny game. You never know when it’s going to get nerve-racking and you never know what the end result’s going to be until the final out.”
Biggio had an outstanding night at the plate, as he was a home run short of hitting for the natural cycle. He claimed a single in the first inning, a double in the third and a triple in the sixth to go along with an RBI and two runs scored. In the field, he had six put outs and three assists.
“It was a great team win tonight,” the Houston, Texas native said. “Our whole dugout was into it the whole game and their pitcher came out throwing upper 90’s, but we weren’t intimidated and came out swinging the bats well. One hit followed another and it became contagious.”
Biggio scored Notre Dame’s first run, as he teamed with senior Blaise Lezynski for a double steal that got the Irish on board in the opening frame.
After a Sheldon Neuse sac fly in the first and a Kolbey Carpenter solo homer in the second gave Oklahoma a 2-1 lead, the Irish offense got to work off Sooner starter Alec Hansen (3.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO) and reliever Blake Rogers (3.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB).
Biggio tied the game at two in the third with an RBI double before the Irish bats exploded for six runs in the fourth inning. The big play that got Notre Dame going in the fourth came early. After sophomore Ryan Lidge opened the frame with a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball, junior Lane Richards looked to put down a sac bunt to advance Lidge to third. However, pitcher Alec Hansen sailed the ball past first baseman Austin O’Brien and allowed Richards to sneak to second and Lidge to score.
Later in the inning, freshman leadoff hitter Jake Johnson ripped an RBI single, senior Robert Youngdahl walked with the bases loaded, junior Zak Kutsulis tagged a two-run single to left field and Lidge doubled down the left-field line to score the final run. In the inning, 11 Notre Dame batters stepped up to the dish and senior Mac Hudgins had an 11-pitch at-bat that featured six foul balls before knocking a single to left field.
Oklahoma didn’t give up, however, as Alex Wise crushed a three-run homer in the seventh inning to trim the Irish lead to 10-5. In the ninth, two walks and a single opened the frame. What followed were Neuse’s second sac fly of the game and three consecutive singles off Smoyer that cut the lead to one. Oklahoma couldn’t come all the way back though, as Smoyer forced two fly outs to give him his first career save and clinch an Irish victory.
“Obviously not the way you want to close out a game there at the end, but I was proud of the guys. They kept competing, almost like the next man in mentality,” said Irish head coach Mik Aoki. “The guys were staying positive in the dugout. They were really confident we would nail it down despite how tight it got. I certainly give Oklahoma a lot of credit for not rolling over in that game. It was a good win, an important win for us. We have a chance to win a series tomorrow.”
Joining Biggio with solid games at the plate were Johnson (2 BB, 1 H, 1 RBI, 2 R), Lezynski (1 H, 1 BB, 1 RBI, 1 R), Kutsulis (2 RBI) and Lidge (2 H, 1 RBI, 1 BB) among others.
Notre Dame and the Sooners wrap up their three-game set at 1 p.m. ET (12 p.m. CT) Sunday. Fans can follow the radio broadcast through WatchND or 103.1 FM in South Bend. SoonerSports.tv will have the video broadcast for $9.99. Live stats are also available through UND.com.
On Cavan Biggio’s play this year …
“He’s had really mature at-bats so far. He has been up there looking for pitches, looking to commit to get the barrel out there in advantage counts. The level that he is playing defense is great. That was a tough double play that he turned tonight. The guy was all on his legs and he turned that. In that last inning to see him take the trip to the mound and bring the entire infield together, that was huge. Getting leadership like that from a guy that is one of our better players is a really big deal.”
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director