Feb. 21, 2015
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Behind six shutout innings in relief from sophomore LHP Scott Tully and a pair of three-run innings from the Irish bats, the University of Notre Dame baseball team overcame an early deficit to beat Northwestern, 7-3, Saturday afternoon and improve to 3-0 on the weekend at the Irish Alamo Invitational.
After starter Brandon Bielak gave up three runs in three innings of work, Tully entered in relief at the beginning of the fourth inning. Over the next six frames, the Reading, Massachusetts native hit two batters and allowed only three hits in keeping Northwestern off the scoreboard the rest of the game. He also struck out three and walked none on 73 pitches to earn his first collegiate victory.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Tully of the win. “I’m glad I could get out there and help get another W for the Irish. I thought my changeup was really on. Usually it’s a pitch I can throw for a strike or a swing and miss pitch, but it’s really special when I can throw it to both sides of the plate and command it to a spot. Fortunately I had that today.”
“I thought they were a really good matchup for Scott,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “They are a right-handed heavy team and he got his changeup in play. One thing that Scotty has been working on and I thought he did a really good job with today was commanding his fastball. And then he used the changeup to keep them off his fastball. I thought he did a really good job and changed the whole energy of that game.”
Tully’s effort helped steady the Irish, as they patiently waited for their bats to get going. Clinging to a 4-3 lead heading into the eighth inning, Notre Dame put the hammer down with three runs.
After the Irish loaded the bases on a single from Mac Hudgins, a Jake Johnson hit by pitch and an infield bunt single from Kyle Fiala, sophomore Cavan Biggio strolled to the plate looking to come up big once again for the Irish.
Facing a 0-2 count, Biggio, who is hitting .455 with runners in scoring position this year, absolutely smoked a double off the right-field wall to score a pair of runs and push Notre Dame’s lead to 6-3. One batter later, pinch hitter Ryan Bull smacked a single to centerfield to score Fiala and give the game its final margin.
“I thought it was an appropriate game. Saturday is `relentless Saturday’ for us and I thought we were relentless all game. We stayed disciplined, we didn’t let the game situation panic us in any way. We kept doing what we’ve been doing and ended up being able to lean on them enough to where Cavan (Biggio) gets that big hit to knock guys in. But again, Mac (Hudgins) sets the table, Jake (Johnson) again gets on base and Kyle (Fiala) lays down a great bunt to put Cavan in a situation to do that. Even Cavan’s at-bat I thought was great. Two calls that he clearly wasn’t all that excited to get called on him and he took an elevated 0-2 fastball and smashes it down the line. It was big for us.”
For Biggio, the hit was his only one of the day and kept alive his seven-game hitting streak to start the year. He has recorded four multi-hit games and two multi-RBI games and has a split of .500/.821/.600.
Fiala and Robert Youngdahl both notched two hits on the day, while senior Mac Hudgins tied his career high with three hits to go along with two runs scored and a spectacular web gem in centerfield to rob Northwestern of a base hit.
“I know the numbers aren’t that great, but Mac has been doing a lot of the little things like moving guys over and having productive outs. Even yesterday, one of the runs was him grounding out to first to score a guy. He is battling with two strikes. You go back to the Oklahoma game and he had that double-digit pitch at-bat. I know he hasn’t been rewarded with the hits, but his at-bats have been really competitive and really good at-bats.”
The game-clinching inning showcased what has been a new Irish offense so far in 2015. Though early, Notre Dame is averaging well over seven runs a game this year while batting .290 and boasting a .409 on-base percentage. They are also hitting .319 with runners in scoring position. Last year, Notre Dame averaged just 3.8 runs a game while hitting .245 and totaling a .323 on-base percentage. With runners in scoring position, they hit just .232.
Notre Dame, who had jumped out to a lead in five of its first six games, went behind early to a scrappy Northwestern (0-6) squad looking for its first win. An RBI fielder’s choice by JR Reimer in the second inning gave the Wildcats the early 1-0 advantage.
The Irish came roaring back in the bottom half of the frame, however, as they scored three runs on an RBI single from junior Lane Richards, a Wildcat error and an RBI groundout from Johnson.
Northwestern tied the contest up an inning later with an RBI single from Joe Hoscheit and an RBI fielder’s choice from Luke Dauch.
An RBI fielder’s choice from Fiala in the fourth inning proved to be the game winner, as Tully kept Northwestern from having too many more scoring opportunities.
Northwestern pitcher Matt Portland (0-2) suffered the loss after giving up four runs (3 ER) on 10 hits.
The Irish (6-1) look to take home the tournament title and claim an undefeated weekend at 11:30 a.m. ET (10:30 a.m. CT) Sunday when they meet Incarnate Word at Nelson W. Wolff Stadium. Notre Dame already boasts a win over the Cardinals (14-1) this weekend.
Fans can follow the game through WatchND’s audio broadcast (WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend) or by tracking live stats. Links for both are on UND.com.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director