March 22, 2016
By Ben Auwaerter
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Following an up-and-down series versus No. 13 NC State, the University of Notre Dame baseball team got back on track with a 9-5 victory over UIC Tuesday night at Frank Eck Stadium.
Left-handed pitcher Michael Hearne followed last Wednesday’s fantastic outing with another solid effort to earn his second win of the season. The Irish offense capitalized on big days from junior Cavan Biggio and senior Ricky Sanchez to take an early lead that was never threatened.
“We got off to a good start. Scoring first is always a big thing in baseball in general,” said Biggio. “Today, they had a pretty good pitcher going out. He had some tough luck with some hits off the end [of the bat]. But we stayed pretty consistent throughout the first couple of innings and were able to put a few runs up.”
The Notre Dame scoring began in a second inning that saw the lineup bat around. Freshman Matt Vierling singled up the middle and Lane Richards reached base on a hard hit ball that got through the left side. A ground rule double by Biggio and productive bunts by sophomore Jake Shepski and senior Kyle Richardson aided the offense’s cause.
Overall, the Irish tallied five runs and six hits off Flames’ starter Reid Birlingmair.
UIC had a chance to get on the board in the third inning. With one out, the Flames had a man on first and third. Hearne then induced a pop out and a ground out to escape the inning unscathed.
In the top of the third, Shepski reached first base on a fielding error in left field. Later in the inning, he scored on a bases loaded walk by freshman Cole Daily. That would be the last batter Birlingmair faced for the day (2.1 IP, 9 R, 8 ER). Biggio welcomed the relief pitcher, Charlie Cerny, by delivering a bases-clearing triple that pushed the Irish lead to 9-0 and conclude the Notre Dame scoring for the day.
That would be more than enough for Hearne, who earned his first quality start of the year in lowering his ERA to 3.13. In total, he allowed two runs and four hits. He also struck out four. With six innings pitched, Hearne tossed his longest outing of the season.
“I thought he was doing a good job commanding his fastball, especially in against the righties,” said head coach Mik Aoki.
With the victory, the Irish improved to 9-10 on the year and moved to 2-0 at Frank Eck Stadium this season. Senior Zak Kutsulis continued a torrid stretch with his 2-5 day. Over the last 16 games, he is splitting .418/.458/.567. Ricky Sanchez had a perfect day at the plate, going 3-3 for with two runs, an RBI and a walk.
Notre Dame will look for continued success this weekend as it travels to take on ACC rival Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Hokies sit at 10-12 with a 1-5 record in conference play. Irish fans can watch all three games live on ESPN3 or listen to WatchND’s audio broadcast. The games are slated for 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Friday & Saturday and 12:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.
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.