April 20, 2014
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – One night after a heartbreaking 3-2 loss, the University of Notre Dame baseball team earned a measure of redemption over No. 10 Miami Sunday night as it piled on five runs in the fifth inning against the Hurricanes to claim a 7-4 victory in front of 2,936 fans at Alex Rodriguez Park and even the best-of-three Atlantic Coast Conference series at a game apiece.
The win gave the Irish (16-22, 4-16 ACC) their first ACC road win in program history, snapped Miami’s 14-game win streak, which was the longest in the nation, and proved to be the first ranked triumph for Notre Dame since a 6-5 11-inning victory over No. 10 Oklahoma on March 10 of last season.
“Tonight was a good win against a quality opponent,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “I thought Mike (Michael Hearne) scuffled through but did a really good job of competing. Scotty (Scott Kerrigan) looked good out there in the seventh and eighth and then Donnie (Hissa) came in and closed it out. Offensively, we did a nice job of trusting the guy behind us to make plays and drive in runs and then Kevin DeFilippis had the huge triple that brought in a couple of runs and was a huge turning point in the game for us.
“At this point every ACC win is gratifying but tonight was especially nice because it was such a team win. I thought Cavan Biggio swung the bat well tonight. Forrest Johnson was playing his rear end off. I thought we pitched it fairly well. A lot of people had a hand in this victory.”
A monster fifth inning for the Irish was the difference as they plated five runs to boost their cushion to 6-0. With one out, back-to-back singles by juniors Robert Youngdahl and Mac Hudgins and a fielding error by second baseman Alex Hernandez loaded the bases for the Irish. The runs started flowing after that as junior Blaise Lezynski hit a single up the middle that scored Youngdahl and junior Ryan Bull hit a sac fly to centerfield that plated Hudgins. With two outs, pinch hitter Kevin DeFilippis (JR) rocked a 0-1 pitch down the left-field line for a triple that scored freshman Kyle Fiala and Lezynski. In the next at-bat, freshman Cavan Biggio finished off the offensive explosion with an infield single that scored DeFilippis to push the Notre Dame lead to 6-0.
Despite a late comeback attempt by the Hurricanes (27-13, 15-5 ACC), the 6-0 lead would be enough for the Irish pitching staff as five hurlers played a role in helping Notre Dame to the ranked victory. Starter Michael Hearne (3-4) through five innings of shutout ball to lower his season ERA to 2.06. The sophomore gave up seven hits and only struck out two, but walked none and relied on his defense to make plays behind him in the field, especially in the third and fourth innings.
Following Hearne’s exit, the Hurricanes scored four runs (three earned) on the Irish bullpen, but junior Scott Kerrigan and senior Donnie Hissa got Notre Dame back on track with 2.1 innings of shutout ball. Hissa earned his first save of the season after allowing just one hit in the ninth inning to secure the Irish victory.
Several clutch plays helped seal the win for the visiting squad. One of the biggest came in the fourth inning as Miami had runners on first and second with no outs and then on second and third with one out. With Alex Hernandez at the plate, a chopper to third was handled cleanly by junior Phil Mosey and thrown home to a waiting Forrest Johnson. Johnson made a leaping catch and then got down to apply the tag on fellow catcher Zack Collins, who was streaking towards the dish in an attempt to tie the game at one. Five pitches later, Hearne induced a fielder’s choice that ended the inning and kept Miami off the scoreboard. For the game, Miami left 12 runners on base compared to seven by the Irish.
“That was a good play by Phil and a good play by Forrest to make that catch,” said Aoki. “Sometimes you can get ahead of yourself there by trying to put the tag down on a high throw before you secure the ball but Forrest handled it nicely. That was a good one to get out of that inning unscathed.”
“Coach had me playing about even with the bag and I wasn’t sure if they would run on contact or not. Off the bat I had the luxury of hearing their third base coach tell the runner to go so I focused on collecting the ball and throwing home.
“They were threatening in that inning and if I had airmailed that throw or Forrest didn’t get the tag down, momentum could have changed to their side. It was a big play.”
The big play on defense in the fourth gave the Irish momentum heading into the deciding fifth inning.
Coming up big for the Irish at the plate were several juniors as Hudgins led off and recorded his second three-hit game of the season, while Lezynski, Bull, DeFilippis and Mosey notched five of the team’s seven RBI. In addition, Hudgins, Lezynski, DeFilippis and Youngdahl scored four of the squad’s seven runs.
“Getting this win is phenomenal, especially in a venue like this,” said Mosey. “We have been so close so many times in some big-time atmospheres and to finally come away with a win feels really good.”
Freshmen starters Fiala (2 R) and Biggio (2-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 R) also came through big for Notre Dame.
The Hurricanes had four players total 11 of their 14 hits, with Collins recording a four-hit day, Tyler Palmer notching three hits and Dale Carey and Brad Fieger producing two each.
Suffering the loss was starter ‘Cane Andrew Suarez, who fell to 4-2 after going only five innings and giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits. The Hurricanes also used five pitchers throughout the course of the game.
Notre Dame shook off the sting of Saturday night’s defeat early as it had one hit in the first inning and two in the second. In the second frame, Biggio got the inning going with a single to right field with one out. After a stolen base and a walk by Johnson, Mosey hit a rocket to third base that was too hot for Edgar Michelangeli to handle. The ball trickled behind the bag and allowed Biggio to go from second to home and give the Irish an early 1-0 lead and Mosey an RBI single.
After the big five-run sixth inning, the Irish added an insurance run in the seventh as Ca. Biggio drove in Fiala by way of his team-leading sixth sacrifice fly of the season to make the score 7-1 in favor of the visitors.
Miami began to chip away at a lead in the sixth as Michaelangeli hit an RBI fielder’s choice that scored Fieger from third. Then in the seventh, the wheels fell off a bit for the Irish as they gave up three runs and went through three different pitchers. Fieger opened the action with a double that scored Palmer and was immediately followed up with a Brandon Lopez RBI ground out that plated Collins. After a pitching change, pinch hitter Brad Zunica knocked a double down the left-field line to plate Fieger and move the score to 7-4.
The seventh proved to be Miami’s final real chance to score runs as the eighth and ninth innings produced just one hit each behind the pitching of Kerrigan and Hissa.
Monday night’s national television game on ESPNU (7 p.m.) will decide the series. Fans can watch ESPNU’s Dari Nowkhah and Danny Kanell or follow WatchND’s audio coverage (103.1 FM in South Bend) for all the action.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director