April 4, 2015
PITTSBURGH — Looking to snap a six-game Atlantic Coast Conference skid, the University of Notre Dame baseball team put on a clinic against the University of Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon at Charles L. Cost Field, as the Irish used dominant starting pitching and outstanding hitting from a number of standouts to sweep the Panthers, 8-1 and 7-1, respectively, and clinch the series win with one game remaining.
With the two victories, Notre Dame (19-10, 5-9 ACC) clinched its second ACC road series of the year in three chances and recorded its first road conference doubleheader sweep since a Friday sweep of BIG EAST foe Georgetown in Bethesda, Maryland April 20, 2012. The Irish also handed Pitt its first doubleheader sweep at Cost Field, which opened in 2011.
Leading the Irish Saturday were a pair of starting pitchers, as freshman RHP Brandon Bielak (7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, career-high 8 SO) pitched a gem in game one, while sophomore RHP Nick McCarty (6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO) did the same in game two to completely baffle the Panther bats.
“I commanded my fastball out there today,” said Bielak on what made him successful in game one. “I had a lot of confidence in all my pitches, but commanding the fastball from each side of the plate helped get the job done today.
“In past games I haven’t gotten ahead of batters, but today that was my main goal — to get ahead of batters and throw outs.”
On offense, the Irish lit up Pittsburgh starting pitching (T.J. Zeuch & Aaron Sandefur) to the tune of 13 runs (10 ER) on the strength of 20 hits and two walks in just 10 innings of work. The Panther bullpen looked comfortable in eight innings of work (2 R, 3 H, 3 BB), but the damage was done.
“All the runs were huge,” said Bielak. “I have to give credit to the hitters today for going out there and having some quality at-bats.”
Plenty of Notre Dame bats stood out on the day, as eight players recorded at least two hits. Especially impressive was the play of Notre Dame’s seven-, eight- and nine-hole hitters — Lane Richards, Zak Kutsulis and Mac Hudgins — who went a combined 10-for-20, with a homer, three doubles, two walks, nine RBI and eight runs scored.
Hudgins went 4-for-8 with two doubles, two RBI and three runs scored in his first sustained action in almost a month due to a lingering wrist injury, while Richards went 3-for-6 with a homer, a double, four RBI, two walks and three runs scored. Kutsulis added a 3-for-6 day with his first career homer, three RBI and two runs scored.
“It felt really good to see my name on the line-up card and I’m glad Coach Aoki had confidence in me,” said Hudgins. “It felt good to swing, I’ve been battling this wrist injury. It was good to finally get back out there and contribute and help this team win.
“This is a very selfless team and we don’t look at the lineup and worry about where we are in the lineup. Lane has been swinging the bat great, it’s been really fun to watch. He’s had a heck of a year. And Zak this series has swung well. It’s fun to be at the bottom of the lineup when we are swinging it like that. We can really get it going again for the top of the lineup.”
The Irish defense continued their stellar play as well, as they turned two more double plays to up their season total to 41, which sits second in Division I. They also turned in another error free day, which makes six in their last eight games.
Notre Dame and Pitt (11-18, 4-10 ACC) close out the series with a 1 p.m. Easter Sunday contest at Cost Field. Fans can follow through Pitt’s paid video stream or by listening to Chuck Freeby on WatchND’s audio broadcast (WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend). Links for both are on UND.com.
GAME 1: Notre Dame 8, Pitt 0
Behind a seven-inning gem from Bielak (3-1) and a three-RBI day from Richards, the Irish got their road series at Pitt started off on the right foot with an 8-1 victory over the Panthers in game one of a Saturday doubleheader.
The Irish offense jumped all over Panthers’ ace T.J. Zeuch early, as they plated seven runs in the first four innings. Zeuch, who entered the contest with a solid 2.83 ERA and only 13 earned runs allowed, was saddled with all seven runs in five innings of work. He gave up 11 hits and walked two batters while striking out just three.
On the mound for Notre Dame, Bielak turned in the best outing of his young career, as he went seven innings strong and allowed just four hits and two walks while striking out a career-high eight batters in addition to not allowing a run. He tallied two 1-2-3 innings and only allowed Pitt batters to reach second base two times.
At the dish, Richards got the Irish started early with an RBI single in the second inning to give Notre Dame an early 1-0 lead.
In the third, sophomore Ryan Lidge tallied an RBI groundout with the bases loaded before Richards cracked a two-RBI double to right center to up Notre Dame’s lead to 4-0.
The Irish closed out their scoring in the eighth inning, as Kutsulis cracked his first career homer — a solo shot — to give the game its final margin.
Five Notre Dame standouts tallied a pair of hits in the contest, as Fiala (2-5, 1 RBI, 2 R), Bull (2-5, 1 R), Youngdahl (2-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 R), Richards (2-4, 3 RBI) and Kutsulis (2-4, 1 RBI, 1 R) all had monster days at the dish. Elsewhere, Cavan Biggio had a hit, two walks, a hit by pitch and a run scored. In all, seven different Irish student-athletes recorded hits on the afternoon.Â
Pitt scored its lone run on a solo homer from Jordan Frabasilio in the ninth inning off Irish reliever Scott Tully. Tully went two innings and allowed just the one run while striking out three batters.
Before giving up the home run, the Irish pitching staff had a streak of 19 consecutive scoreless innings that included two frames against No. 12 Virginia, nine versus Eastern Michigan and eight against Pitt.Â Â
GAME 2: Notre Dame 7, Pitt 1
After the gem from Bielak in game one, McCarty (4-3) twirled one of his own in game two to lead Notre Dame to a 7-1 victory and a doubleheader sweep over the Panthers.
Similar to game one, the Irish jumped all over the Panther starter, this time lighting up Aaron Sandefur (1-4) for six runs (3 ER) on nine hits in five innings of work.
In the second inning, the Irish capitalized on two big Pitt errors to plate four runs and take an early lead. Highlighting the inning was a two-RBI single from Kutsulis and RBI doubles from Hudgins and Jake Johnson.
The Irish added two runs in the fourth on a Richards’ solo homer and a fielding error on Pitt pitcher Nick Parnell that scored Hudgins and closed out the scoring in the sixth on a Hudgins RBI single. For Richards, he has now hit two homers in his career, with both coming in the last two weeks.
Those seven runs would be more than enough for McCarty, who looked extremely comfortable out on the mound. He hurled six innings of one-hit, shutout ball and left the game after 6.2 innings, one run and only two hits allowed, racking up his team-high sixth quality start in eight chances.
Pitt plated its lone run on a Boo Vasquez sac fly in the seventh frame.
Tully relieved McCarty and went 2.1 innings in his second appearance of the day. He was downright dominant in the nightcap, allowing just a walk while striking out five in a scoreless appearance.
Hudgins was the big hitter for the Irish in the second game, turning in a 3-for-4 afternoon with two RBI and two runs scored. Johnson and Biggio recorded two hits each, while Richards had a homer, RBI, two walks and a team-high three runs scored. Kutsulis added a hit, two RBI and a run scored.
In claiming its 19th win of the year, the Irish are more than a month ahead of last year’s pace, when Notre Dame didn’t pick up its 19th victory until an 11-3 victory over No. 22 Clemson May 11 at Frank Eck Stadium.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director