April 22, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame baseball team exploded for 11 runs on 14 hits, while Irish pitching combined to toss a three-hitter in an 11-0 shutout of Chicago State Wednesday night at Frank Eck Stadium.
The No. 26 Irish (27-13) broke out the bats early against the Cougars (9-29-1), as they plated six runs in the first two innings and had totaled 10 by the end of the fifth.
Four Notre Dame players reached double figures in hits, including freshman designated hitter Jake Shepski, who went 3-for-4 with two triples, a double, three RBI and two runs scored. He finished with eight total bases, which ties sophomore Cavan Biggio for the most by an Irish player this season.
“The thing I liked the most about Jake’s performance was that he was taking committed swings,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “Swings where he had the intention of trying to hit the ball hard. In non-two strike counts we have been talking to him about staying aggressive and swinging the bat hard just in case you hit it.”
Shepski’s pair of three baggers was a first for an Irish player since David Mills accomplished the feat April 6, 2010 against Oakland.
“Coach Aoki gave me some good advice the other day,” said Shepski. “‘When you swing the bat, swing it hard in case you hit it.’ It’s true. Tonight I made sure I got some good counts and I swung the bat with all I have and it turned out well.
The Lockport, Illinois native didn’t see any action in the first 20 games of the year, but has certainly made his mark in the 14 games he has played in since then, batting .311 with four doubles, two triples, seven RBI and four runs scored.
“It was pretty tough at first,” said Shepski of adjusting to being a designated hitter. “Being in the field you feel like you’re more part of the game, but you have to stay locked in at all times, you can’t check out when you’re not at the plate. Watching the pitcher at all times really helped me figure everything out better.”
Elsewhere, sophomore Kyle Fiala went 2-for-4 with a triple, a double, a walk, two RBI and two runs scored, Biggio recorded a solo homer to go along with three walks and two runs scored, senior Robert Youngdahl totaled a double and three RBI, sophomore Ryan Lidge went 2-for-3 with a walk and run scored and junior Kyle Richardson broke out of his recent slump with a 2-for-3 night that featured two singles, a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored.
With two more hits and a walk, Fiala extended his on-base streak to 29 games, which is the longest since former All-American Eric Jagielo had a 36-game streak in 2012. The streak is tied for the fifth longest for a Notre Dame player during one season since 2007.
As a team, eight of Notre Dame’s 14 hits were of the extra-base variety.
Chicago State went through six pitchers to record 24 outs, with freshman starter Ean McNeal (0-1) suffering the most damage, as the Irish hit him for six runs, six hits and two walks in just two innings of work. As a team, the Cougars struck out eight Irish batters, but walked eight others.
On the mound for Notre Dame, junior Connor Hale (5.0 IP, 3 H), freshman Charlie Vorsheck (1.0 IP, 1 BB), freshman Evy Ruibal (2.0 IP, 3 SO) and Youngdahl (1.0 IP, 2 SO) combined to hurl Notre Dame’s fourth shut out of the season. Hale improved to 2-0 in just his second start of his career.
“Connor managed his way through. He came in and competed with his fastball,” said Aoki of Hale’s performance. “He didn’t have a great feel for his off-speed stuff, I don’t think he had a great feel for his changeup or his breaking ball, but I thought he did a good job with his fastball.”
Irish pitching prevented the Cougars from reaching third base all night, and didn’t give up a hit after the fourth inning or a walk after the sixth frame.
With the win, the Irish improve to 16-3 in non-conference action and to 10-8 at the friendly confines of Frank Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame hits the road for Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend, as it heads to Winston-Salem, North Carolina for a key three-game series with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (23-19, 9-12 ACC). The final two games of the series will be streamed live on ESPN3.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director