Feb. 23, 2014
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – One run proved to be the difference again for the University of Notre Dame baseball team against Santa Clara. After a 2-1 loss to the Broncos to open the Irish Baseball Classic Wednesday, the Irish suffered an 8-7 setback Sunday to the same squad in the championship game.
Santa Clara (5-4) went 4-0 on the weekend to claim the Irish Baseball Classic title. Outfielder Greg Harisis took home MVP honors after a fine weekend saw him conclude with a pair of hits and two runs Sunday afternoon.
Poor defense on both sides kept several innings alive as the Irish put up four runs in the first two innings before the Broncos followed with four in the second. The Broncos took a 6-5 lead in the fifth as three consecutive singles helped plate a run. Notre Dame answered in the sixth as a leadoff double from freshman Kyle Fiala turned into a run later in the inning after a well-placed groundout from sophomore Zak Kutsulis allowed Fiala to come home.
Santa Clara rebounded in the bottom half of the inning by loading the bases on sophomore Joey Cresta (0-1). With one out, senior Donnie Hissa entered to try and control the damage. A single and a groundout made the score 8-6 before Hissa closed out the inning. Hissa went on to pitch a solid 2.2 innings in relief as he struck out a team-high five batters.
Notre Dame began cutting into the Bronco lead in the seventh as a pair of Santa Clara errors benefited the Irish. Junior Robert Youngdahl opened the inning by hitting a routine grounder towards second baseman Zach Looney. However, Looney couldn’t make the play, allowing Youngdahl to get on base. Later in the inning, sophomore Kyle Richardson notched his third hit of the game to put runners on the corners. Pinch hitter Mac Hudgins entered to try and bring home Youngdahl, but hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double play. However, another error by Looney, this time a throwing error after putting out Richardson, advanced Hudgins to second and sent Youngdahl home to make the score, 8-7. Up stepped Fiala, who cracked a hard liner to the left side of the infield that looked like a potential game-tying single. However, shortstop Kyle Czaplak made a leaping grab to end the inning.
The Irish threatened again in the eighth as they put runners on the corners after a double by Kutsulis, a deep infield out from freshman Cavan Biggio that advanced Kutsulis to third and a walk from junior Ryan Bull. Youngdahl came to the plate and absolutely walloped a 1-0 pitch to right field, but it was caught at the warning track to end Notre Dame’s last real threat.
A game-ending double play extinguished Notre Dame’s final chance at tying the contest and sending it to the bottom of the ninth.
A sloppy game on both sides saw a combined six errors, 21 runners left on base, four hit batters, two wild pitches, one passed ball and one caught stealing.
Notre Dame used six pitchers with limited success. Starter Scott Kerrigan went only an inning after giving up two runs, walking three batters, hurling a wild pitch and hitting a batter as he continues to search for his command after missing all of last season following right labrum surgery. Sophomore Michael Hearne followed with 2.2 innings of work, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits. Freshman Ryan Smoyer was up next, going one inning and giving up a run on two hits. Freshman Jim Orwick gave up a hit without recording an out and Cresta was charged with the loss after giving up two runs on two hits in 0.2 innings of work.
At the plate, Kutsulis set career highs with four hits and five total bases to go along with an RBI and a run scored. Biggio had a hit, a run and two sacrifice flies, junior Blaise Lezynski had the other sacrifice fly and Richardson recorded his first three-hit day of his career. Fiala scored two runs to lead the squad. Extending streaks were Biggio and Youngdahl (H, BB), who have reached base in all seven games this season. Richardson isn’t far behind as he has reached base the last six games of the campaign.
Earning the win for the Broncos was middle reliever Chris Heckert, who gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits in two innings of work. Reece Karalus earned the save by going two innings and only allowing a pair of hits and a walk.
Looney made up for his two errors in the field by recording two hits, two RBI and a walk. Four Broncos recorded multiple hits on the day.
Notre Dame (3-4) will next head for Cary, N.C., and the USA Baseball-Irish Classic that will feature some of the nation’s elite. Joining the Irish are defending national champion UCLA and College World Series participant NC State in addition to Michigan, Appalachian State and Youngstown State.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director