May 21, 2016

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By Russell Dorn

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It’s never easy when the final out is recorded on a team’s season. For the University of Notre Dame baseball team, that final out occurred Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium, as No. 16 Clemson finished off the series sweep with a 6-2 victory.

The Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth on the strength of a pair of two-run homers by junior catcher Chris Okey (3rd inning) and sophomore third baseman Chris Williams (9th inning).

However, as has been the case for much of 2016, the Irish didn’t go down without a fight. With only three outs remaining, Notre Dame went to work.

After having a career year, senior Zak Kutsulis missed 11 games recently with a leg injury. Still with a noticeable limp, Kutsulis stepped up to pinch hit to lead off the ninth and crushed a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence to break up the shutout. The homer was the third this season and the ninth of his career.

Kutsulis posted 190 hits (51 extra-base hits), 91 RBI, 61 walks and 85 runs scored while appearing in 200 career games with 181 starts. In the field, he turned in a remarkable .990 fielding percentage and over 1,000 put outs (1,009).

Following back-to-back singles from junior Kyle Fiala and freshman Nick Podkul, junior Cavan Biggio walked to load the bases. Senior Ricky Sanchez then came through big in the final at-bat of his career, smashing a single through the right side to score Fiala from third base.

Biggio concluded his outstanding junior campaign with two hits and two walks. He has 164 hits (56 extra-base hits), 70 RBI, 125 walks, 33 stolen bases and 117 runs scored in three years under the Golden Dome. The Houston, Texas native has started 166 of a possible 167 games and sports an impressive .406 on-base percentage.

In their final games in an Irish uniform, several seniors turned in outstanding performances. At the plate, James Nevant reached base on a hit by pitch, Sanchez had the RBI single, Lane Richards posted a hit, Kyle Richardson had two hits and Kutsulis smacked the home run.

Richards finishes his career having started every game he was active to play in (206), while recording 189 hits (50 extra-base hits), 78 RBI, 53 walks and 85 runs scored. He concluded his brilliant career at shortstop with a .954 fielding percentage.

On the mound, three seniors earned playing time. RHP Joey Cresta received the first start of his career and retired five batters in a row – while posting three strikeouts – before being removed from the game after 2.1 innings of work. RHP Connor Hale then tossed 2.1 innings with two strikeouts and RHP Nick McCarty hurled two perfect innings.

Sophomores Evy Ruibal (0.1 IP, 1 SO) and Brad Bass (1.0 IP, 1 SO) both made clean appearances. Fellow sophomore Jake Shepski struck out two batters to wrap up the top of the ninth.

The Irish wrap up the 2016 season with a 27-27 record overall and an 11-17 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

For more information on the Notre Dame baseball team, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).

Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.