April 12, 2016

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By Ben Auwaerter

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On a clear Tuesday night at Frank Eck Stadium, the University of Notre Dame baseball team scored in each of the first three innings to claim a 6-3 victory over Chicago State University.

The offensive effort was highlighted by a big, 2-for-3 day from junior Kyle Fiala, who maintained a hot bat just two games removed from a 13-game absence from the lineup due to an injured hand.

“I’ve been out a little while, but I’m just going up to the plate with a plan and trying to have a quality at-bat,” said Fiala, a third-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection in 2015. “I’m trying to see a lot of pitches since I’ve been out so long. Each at-bat I have, my timing gets better.”

The Irish started the game strong. With two outs in the first inning, senior Zak Kutsulis tripled to the right field wall. He scored on a wild pitch in the next at-bat to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.

Freshman Matt Vierling led off the bottom of the second inning with a single to center field. After a walk by sophomore Jake Shepski and a sacrifice bunt by senior Lane Richards, Vierling scored on an infield single from Fiala. Shepski then crossed the plate on an RBI groundout by junior Ryan Lidge. Two more runs scored when the Chicago State left fielder, Jeremy Cole, dropped a fly ball from junior Cavan Biggio. The Irish ended the inning with a 4-0 lead.

Senior Ricky Sanchez opened up the bottom of the third inning with an infield single. Vierling continued his impressive day by knocking Sanchez in on an RBI triple down the right field line. Shepski hit a sacrifice fly to score Vierling and close out the Irish scoring for the day.

It was a “Johnny All-Staff” day at The Eck for Notre Dame, as five pitchers combined to limit the Cougar offense to three runs on seven hits.

Junior Ryan Smoyer, who is slated to start again this weekend, threw three hitless innings to begin the game and was ultimately credited with his third win of the year. He was succeeded by senior Nick McCarty, who allowed two runs while striking out two batters in two innings of work. Senior Joey Cresta pitched the sixth and seventh innings, conceding only one run on one hit. Senior Connor Hale and sophomore Brad Bass closed out the final two innings to seal the victory for the Irish. Bass earned his first save of the year for his effort after striking out three of the four batters he faced on just 17 pitches.

On the day, Vierling went 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI. Kutsulis recorded two hits to up his batting average to .333. Ricky Sanchez went 2-for-4, raising his average to .343.

With the victory, Notre Dame has won 11 out of its last 14 games and improves to an impressive 5-0 in midweek games this season.

“I think we have played at a much higher level overall recently. I don’t think we were playing poorly earlier, but we weren’t playing to what our potential is. I think we are playing a little bit closer to our potential now,” said head coach Mik Aoki.

Notre Dame will look to continue their winning ways on Wednesday against Valparaiso. Irish fans can watch the game live on WatchND’s video broadcast or listen to the radio broadcast on WHME 103.1 FM. The game is slated to begin at 6:05 p.m. (ET).

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

Ben Auwaerter is a freshman at Notre Dame and is from Lutherville, Maryland. He previously worked during the summer of 2014 with the Baltimore Orioles public relations office.