April 19, 2014
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In a season filled with heartbreakers, Saturday night was one of the toughest as the University of Notre Dame baseball team couldn’t hold on to a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning at No. 11 Miami, ultimately falling, 3-2, on a game-winning sac fly from first baseman Brad Fieger in the bottom of the ninth in front of 3,694 fans at Alex Rodriguez Park.
Unfortunately, the game fell apart quickly for the Irish just three outs from their first ACC road win. Willie Abreu led off the inning for the Hurricanes and reached base on a rushed throw by Fiala, who was making the first start of his career at shortstop. Catcher Zack Collins came up next and hit a blast to right center that could have been caught by the Irish defense but went in the books as a triple that scored one run to tie the game and put the winning run 90 feet from home plate. That set the stage for Fieger, who hit a fly out to right field that was deep enough to tag Collins and give Miami the win.
Despite another solid outing (eighth quality start in 10 appearances), Fitzgerald (3-3) suffered the hard-luck loss as he was charged with three runs (two earned) on five hits. He struck out five and walked only one on 117 pitches.
“Fitz has been so consistent this year in giving us opportunities to win,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “He hasn’t pitched us out of anything. Tonight was the same thing. It’s is one of those night’s that shows you how unfair baseball can be that he gets saddled with that loss. In no way, shape or form did he deserve that loss.”
The dualing pitcher, Chris Diaz, entered the game at 6-0 and received the no-decision after giving up two runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out five on 108 pitches. Hurricane reliever Thomas Woodrey (2-0) picked up the win after one inning of no-hit ball.
Miami got on the board first as it took advantage of a leadoff double from Brandon Lopez to open the third inning to take a 1-0 lead. After the Lopez double Alex Hernandez laid down a sac bunt that Fitzgerald fielded cleanly and attempted to throw out the lead runner. Unfortunately, Hernandez beat out the throw to give Miami runners on the corners with no outs. After a big Fitzgerald strikeout of Derik Beauprez, Dale Carey hit a deep fly to right field that should have been a sac fly but the inning’s second out. However, Ryan Bull lost the ball in the lights resulting in all runners advancing safely. With runners on first and second, Fitzgerald delivered a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning without any more Hurricane’ runners crossing the dish.
After being held hitless for the first four innings, the Irish bats exploded in the fifth for a pair of runs on four hits and a 2-1 lead. The inning opened with back-to-back singles from Ca. Biggio and Johnson that gave Notre Dame runners on first and second with no outs. A strikeout and groundout kept the runners in place, but a well-timed bunt towards third base by Mac Hudgins loaded the bases for Fiala. The newly-minted shortstop came through in the clutch with his third and fourth two-out RBI of the season by ripping a double over first base and down the right-field line to score both Biggio and Johnson standing up and change the momentum of the ballgame.
Notre Dame again struggled to score insurance runs as it left runners on base in the third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings.
Game two of the series gets underway at 7 p.m. Easter Sunday and can be viewed on ESPN3.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director