April 12, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — As was the case the entire series, the University of Notre Dame baseball team used outstanding pitching, solid defense and clutch hitting to top No. 7 Florida State, 2-1, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium and complete an impressive three-game sweep of the Seminoles that turned heads nationally and upped the Irish win streak to eight games.
“It’s really gratifying to see a group of players who work as hard as these guys have to have some success on this type of level,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “In the grand scheme of things we can say that it’s just three games out of 30 in the ACC, and to a certain extent that’s true, but to be able to do it against a program with the history and tradition like Florida State has and to do it against a coaching staff that I have the greatest amount of respect for is special. But we have to be able to enjoy it for 24 hours and then we have to move on and go back out there and play and compete against Toledo Wednesday night.”
After home series sweeps at the hands of then-No. 8 Louisville and then-No. 12 Virginia, Notre Dame (24-10, 9-9 ACC) turned the page and has taken off since, claiming a series sweep at Pitt on Easter weekend, before taking down the Seminoles this weekend to firmly put it back in the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournament picture.
Notre Dame struck first in the series finale on an RBI-double by sophomore Cavan Biggio in the fourth inning that scored sophomore Kyle Fiala from third base. One inning later, the eventual game-winning run came off the bat of junior Zak Kutsulis, as the Homer Glen, Illinois smacked a solo homer over the left-field fence to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead.
Florida State trimmed the lead to one an inning later on an RBI-single from All-American DJ Stewart, but the Irish pitching unit would give them no more. Besides the sixth inning, the Seminoles reached second base just two other times — once in the first frame and again in the ninth.
Freshman RHP Brad Bass made his first career start and turned in a solid 1.1 innings of work in his first outing since March 21. Junior Connor Hale followed Bass and had an outstanding 3.2 innings of work to earn his second career victory.
Hale, who entered the game with a runner on first, promptly induced a double play to end the second frame. He followed that effort with perfect third and fifth innings while allowing just a single in the fourth.
After running into a bit of trouble in the sixth, freshman Evy Ruibal entered the game with the bases loaded to relieve Hale. Facing Quincy Nieporte, Ruibal coaxed an outstanding 523 double play to prevent any runs from scoring. The Millburn, New Jersey native then induced a foul out to Ryan Lidge behind the plate to get the Irish out of the inning with a 2-1 lead.
“I came in and wanted to attack the zone and rely on my fielders because they are always behind me 100%,” said Ruibal. “I’m glad they were out there for me when I needed them. We played well collectively as a team and when people are doing that it creates a winning atmosphere.
“With a lot of guys out, I had no idea how I would be used today, but I knew I had to be ready to go. I went about my business as usual and just tried to do my job.”
In the ninth inning, Ruibal got the first out, but then gave up a pair of singles before being removed for sophomore Scott Tully. Tully, who earned the win Wednesday against Valparaiso, wasted no time in striking out two batters to earn his first career save and clinch the series sweep.
Entering the series averaging 7.57 runs a game, the Seminoles managed just four for the entire weekend against Notre Dame pitching. The Irish boasted a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings of work and struck out 23 batters. The Seminoles entered the weekend leading the ACC by a large margin in walks, averaging 6.6 a game, but had just five against the Irish.
“Seeing some guys that haven’t had many opportunities step up in a really big way was very gratifying,” said Aoki. “Connor Hale in particular; I’m so proud of the way he went out there and competed his rear end off. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves despite knowing that two of our three starting pitchers would be out this weekend. They just kept grinding and competing. I’m so proud of that part of it.”
Riding high, the Irish will now turn to a midweek game against Toledo at 6:05 p.m. (ET) Wednesday before welcoming in another tough ACC foe in NC State for a key three-game series. The two squads are scheduled to play at 6:05 p.m. (ET) Friday, 2:05 p.m. (ET) Saturday and 1:05 p.m. (ET) Sunday.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director