April 5, 2015
PITTSBURGH — Outstanding relief pitching from Ryan Smoyer and Sean Guenther and a steady Irish offense propelled the University of Notre Dame baseball to a 7-3 victory over the Pitt Panthers Sunday afternoon at Charles L. Cost Field to complete the three-game Atlantic Coast Conference sweep.
Notre Dame (20-10, 6-9 ACC) is now 10 games over .500 for the fourth time this year and has won eight games in a row against their former BIG EAST foe and current ACC opponent dating back to the 2013 BIG EAST Tournament where the Irish handed the Panthers both of their losses in the tournament.
The sweep was the first one on the road since Notre Dame took care of Tulane Feb. 22-24, 2013 and the first road conference sweep since the Irish rolled past Georgetown April 20-21, 2012. It also marked the first ACC road sweep for the Irish and their first ACC sweep since they busted out the brooms against the Panthers at Frank Eck Stadium to end the 2014 campaign.
Just like they did all weekend, the Irish used a steady dose of outstanding pitching and defense and a much-improved bat to take care of the Panthers Sunday.
All of our pitching did a great job this weekend,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “Obviously Evy struggled a little bit early, but I’m proud of the way that he got himself composed and got a few outs for us. Obviously Ryan’s (Smoyer) outing was really important for us to stem the tide until we could string some quality at-bats together.
“I’ve been saying to the guys all along that we’re fine, we don’t need to worry about it and I don’t think we really needed to. We just need to be who and what we are and when we do that we are pretty good. Obviously with the series against Louisville and Virginia it would have been nice to come away with a win or two in those series, but I thought we played well. There was no need to hit the panic button. We came out here and played to who and what we are, and that’s a team that pitches pretty well and defends at a high level. And when we are stringing together quality at-bats we can be a pretty good team offensively as well.”
Notre Dame’s offense picked up right where it left off Saturday in the first inning, as it plated three runs off Pitt starter Marc Berube (0-4). Getting the start in centerfield and leading off, senior co-captain Mac Hudgins took the second pitch of the game and sent it screaming over the right-field fence for his second homer of his career and the first since 2013. Later in the inning, senior Robert Youngdahl had an RBI groundout and sophomore Ryan Lidge turned in an RBI single to stake the Irish to an early 3-0 lead.
Hudgins’ lead-off homer in the first inning was the first by an Irish player since Frank Desico accomplished the same feat April 28, 2013 in a 12-5 win over UConn.
TheÂ Irish gave freshman Evy Ruibal his first career start in the series finale. The Millburn, New Jersey native ran into some early trouble, however, as a single, double and two-run homer from Nick Yarnall tied the game at three just three batters into the bottom of the first.
Ruibal didn’t give up though, as he recorded five outs without allowing another run to score before being relieved by sophomore Ryan Smoyer (4-0).
Coming off a complete-game shutout of Eastern Michigan Tuesday, the Bowling Green native picked up right where he left off, tossing 4.1 scoreless innings to up his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 15 frames. He allowed just three hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out three to settle the ship and allow the Irish offense to get to work.
“The coaches let me know I might be pitching some Sunday and I came out today and gave them what I had left,” Smoyer said. “I thought I had the command like I usually did. I relied on the fastball and getting groundballs and the defense helped again today.”
One of Notre Dame’s most consistent pitchers of late, Smoyer is 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA in five appearances and 25.1 innings of work on the bump since starting a midweek game at Savannah State March 11.
Guenther entered in relief of Smoyer in the seventh and hurled three perfect frames to pick up his first career save.
After a rocky start in his first career appearance, Guenther has been outstanding since, boasting a 1.59 ERA in 13 appearances and 22.2 innings since Feb. 20.
Tied at three apiece, Notre Dame claimed its second lead of the game in the third inning, as Youngdahl picked up his second RBI on the afternoon with a single through the right side that scored senior Ryan Bull from second base.
Shepski, who didn’t see his first collegiate action until March 21 against No. 8 Louisville, was outstanding at the plate with three hits, two RBI and a run scored in the designated player role.
All nine players that received at-bats for the Irish logged hits on the day.
“The hitters did a great job and that just translated to the defense,” Smoyer said. “Our guys in the infield and outfield have been putting in a lot of work and it has shown. As a pitcher when you go out there with the lead — especially with the defense we’ve had behind us — you are very comfortable out there on the mound.”
On defense, the Irish wrapped up an error-free weekend while also racking up its 42nd double play of the year, putting them far in front of the next closest ACC team.
Behind the dish, Lidge made a pair of outstanding throws to end the first two innings. The Barrington, Illinois native caught a Panther runner trying to steal second to end the first before picking off a Pitt runner at second to end the second frame.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Irish will step into exhibition action Tuesday night, when they make the short trek over to Four Winds Field in South Bend for a 6 p.m. contest with the Single A South Bend Cubs.
Notre Dame will then play host to in-state foe Valparaiso at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish welcome in No. 8 Florida State this weekend for a three-game ACC series.
Fans can call the Murnane Family Ticket Office at 574-631-7356 for ticket information for all five games this week.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director