March 11, 2017
By Michael Scholl
CLEMSON, South Carolina — The University of Notre Dame baseball team used a three-run fifth inning to overcome an early deficit and tie the game but ultimately dropped a hard-fought 6-5 decision in game two at Clemson on Saturday evening.
Sean Guenther was outstanding in relief, giving the Irish a chance to win the game by holding the Tigers to two hits while facing one over the minimum in the final four innings. Ryan Smoyer also battled through a pair innings out of the pen, allowing one run and one hit, but took the loss.
The heart of the Irish order provided a spark at the plate, with Nick Podkul going 3-for-5 with two RBI, while Kyle Fiala was 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs. Cole Daily contributed a pair of hits, as well.
Defensively, Notre Dame played its best game of the season. In addition to not committing an error, Jake Johnson robbed Clemson’s Weston Jackson of a home run in the third and added a diving catch in left during the fourth. Daily made a leaping catch of a line drive in the sixth inning and Matt Vierling doubled-up a tagging runner at second from deep center field in the seventh inning.
The Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead after just two hitters. Chase Pinder opened the game with a double down the left field line and was followed by a single down the right field line from Reed Rohlman to score Pinder. Seth Beer then singled with a chopper over Daniel Jung at first and Chris Williams drew a walk. Andrew Cox scored the second run of the frame with a sacrifice fly to left, pushing Johnson up against the wall as the Irish left fielder had to navigate the grass incline, backpedaling up the hill. After all three runners tagged, a passed ball allowed Beer to score and made it 3-0. Irish starter Peter Solomon walked Logan Davidson before Weston Jackson hit a chopper to third to score Williams, as Fiala’s only play was to retire Davidson at second. Jordan Greene singled to left before Solomon got Patrick Cromwell swinging to end the damage at 4-0 Clemson.
The Irish got one back right away in the second inning. Vierling started the frame with a single before Jung followed with another base hit while Mik Aoki had the hit-and-run on. With runners on the corners, Patrick McDonald delivered with a fly ball to center to score Vierling. Consecutive strikeouts would end the frame, however, with the score 4-1 Tigers.
After the Tigers added a run in the bottom of the second, Notre Dame struck again in the third. Fiala drilled a one-out double to the gap in right-center before Podkul smoked a ball that ricocheted off the glove of Cromwell at third and deflected into shallow left-center for an RBI single. Podkul advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Clemson starter Pat Krall got Vierling swinging on a 3-2 changeup to end the inning and preserve the Clemson lead at 5-2.
The Irish tied the game with four straight hits in the fifth to chase Krall. Connor Power hit a single through the left side before Johnson singled through the right side, with the ball deflecting off the second baseman’s glove allowing Power to move up to third. It didn’t matter where the runners were, however, as Fiala smoked a ball to the wall in left-center to score both runs. After Fiala stole third, Podkul connected for a double off the wall in left to tie things up. Matt Vierling popped up before Jung struck out swinging to end the frame with the score tied, 5-5.
The Tigers retook the lead without a hit in the bottom half of the fifth. Irish pitching walked the first three hitters before Cromwell hit a slow roller in front of the plate that let the Irish get an out at the plate. Pinder followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-5.
The Irish came within a few inches of tying it in the sixth. Nick Neville pinch hit for McDonald and drew a leadoff walk. Daily singled before a wild pitch moved both runners up. Jake Shepski struck out and then Power tried to squeeze the run home, but the bunt went right back to the pitcher and Neville was caught in a rundown and called out at third on a bang-bang play. Johnson then flew out to end the threat.
The series wraps on Sunday with a 1 p.m. first pitch from Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The contest can be seen on the ACC Network Extra, available on WatchESPN, and heard on WatchND and 103.1 FM in South Bend.
— ND —
Michael Scholl joined Fighting Irish Media in August 2016, coordinating communications for the baseball program and assisting with the football team at his alma mater. The South Bend native earned a degree in political science from the College of Arts & Letters in 2009 before going on to work in athletics communications at Providence College, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.