April 25, 2017
By Neil Joseph
NOTRE DAME, Indiana – The Notre Dame baseball team put together an explosive day at the plate to defeat Valparaiso 10-3 on a beautiful evening at Frank Eck Stadium. Although the Irish scored in only three innings, they hung crooked numbers on the scoreboard in all three to score ten runs on ten hits. Notre Dame’s pitching staff held the Crusaders in check, yielding only five hits in the game. The bullpen was once again tremendous in a weekday home game, holding Valparaiso scoreless on one hit through the final four innings.
Ryan Smoyer picked up the win for the Irish, giving up four hits over five innings pitched. He started the game smoothly and managed through a three-run fourth to record the win. Cameron Brown pitched 1.2 innings in relief, giving up only one hit. Freshmen Patrick McDonald and Zack Martin were also fabulous from the bullpen, combining for the last 2.1 innings without giving up a hit.
Michael Mommersteeg took the loss for Valparaiso, as the Irish forced him from the game after only two innings pitched. The Irish pounced on him in the second, scoring four runs to get a lead that they would never relinquish. They then scored six runs on the bullpen to build a seven-run lead that would hold up.
Eight Notre Dame batters reached base, and seven of them scored a run. Nick Podkul did his job as the leadoff hitter, reaching base in three of his four plate appearances, scoring two runs, and driving in two more. Ryan Lidge had three RBI with his first career triple, and Kyle Fiala had three hits. Nick Neville also drove in three runs, and Jake Shepski reached base in three of his four plate appearances.
The Irish started the scoring in the bottom of the second. Cole Daily began the inning by getting hit by a pitch, and Neville’s sacrifice bunt attempt put him on base after an error on the Valparaiso pitcher. After Daniel Jung moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt, Shepski walked. Podkul then brought both Daily and Neville in with a double down the left-field line and Jake Johnson hit a sacrifice fly to plate Shepski. Fiala then hit a two-out single to right to bring in Podkul, and a Matt Vierling groundout finally ended the inning with the Irish up 4-0.
Smoyer managed to work around two early walks to shut the Crusaders out in the third. After he walked the first two hitters in the inning, he rolled a 4-6-3 double play and got the next Crusader batter to pop out to Lidge in foul territory to escape the inning unscathed.
Notre Dame added to their lead in the bottom of the third inning. Ryan Lidge was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved over to third on a double by Daily. Neville then drove them both in with a double that nearly cleared the centerfield wall. After Jung moved Neville over to third with a ground ball, Shepski drove in Neville with a single to right. Podkul then walked, but Johnson struck out to finally end the Irish scoring.
Valparaiso cut into the Irish lead to start the fourth. After Smoyer forced a ground ball to start the inning, Christian Barczi hit a double into the left-center gap. Sam Shaikin then walked, and Giovanni Garbella drove them both in with a double. Scott Kapers then drove Garbella in with a single, but Smoyer forced a fly ball and a lineout to end the inning.
Lidge’s first career triple with two outs pushed the Irish lead to seven going into the seventh. After Shepski flied out to start the inning, Podkul walked. Johnson then also flew out, but Fiala reached on a bunt hit. After the Crusaders changed pitchers, Vierling walked to load the bases for a Lidge triple that gave Notre Dame a 10-3 lead after six.
Although the Crusaders loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, the Irish bullpen shut the door and got out of the inning unscathed. After Valparaiso had their first two men reach base on a walk and a single, Brown struck out Chad Jacob. The Irish barely missed turning a double play to end the inning and Brown walked Jake Hanson to load the bases with two outs. Freshman Patrick McDonald struck out the final batter, however, to keep the Irish lead at seven.
The Irish return to action with another nonconference game on Wednesday night at Frank Eck Stadium as Eastern Michigan visits for a 6:05 p.m. first pitch. It’s Dollar Dog Night and National Pretzel Day with $1 hot dogs and free pretzels available to early arriving fans. Those unable to make it to the ballpark can watch on ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN) or listen on WatchND or 103.1 FM.
— ND —
Neil Joseph is a student worker for Fighting Irish media.