March 19, 2017
By Michael Bertsch
PITTSBURGH – While Pittsburgh earned a split of Sunday’s doubleheader and salvaged the series finale with Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish did take two of three from the Panthers. Notre Dame captured the opener, 4-3, in 12 innings, but Pitt rebounded with an extra-inning victory of its own, 2-1, also in 12 innings.
The Irish now stand 6-12 overall and 2-4 in the ACC, while the Panthers are 8-9 and 1-5.
Notre Dame got outstanding starting pitching from both senior Michael Hearne and junior Brad Bass, but neither factored into the decision of either game.
Hearne did not allow an earned run (one unearned run) in 7.0 innings of work. He limited Pitt to just three hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk.
Bass also allowed just one unearned run in 6.2 innings. He scattered six hits and fanned seven.
Sophomore Matt Vierling (1-0) picked up the victory in relief of game one. He allowed a couple of earned runs on five hits in 4.0 innings. Vierling struck out one and did not walk a batter. He also went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored.
Key Innings – Game 2
Pitt grabbed the first lead of the game due to some poor Irish defense. With two down, Manny Pazos laid down a bunt that Bass fielded cleanly, but his throw sailed over Daniel Jung at first base for an error. Then, Jake Shepski, who ran over to backup the play, misplayed the ball off the fence in foul territory for another error. Pazos ended up on third base and scored one batter later on Alex Amos RBI single.
Notre Dame tied the game, 1-1, on a Pitt error. Jung and Patrick McDonald opened the frame with singles. Cole Daily followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt. Panthers closer Yaya Chentouf fielded the bunt and tried to throw out Nick Neville, who pinch ran for Jung, at third base. The throw was wild and Neville raced home. After Ryan Lidge was intentionally walked to load the bases with no outs, Shepski struck out. Jake Johnson then ripped an 0-1 offering down the first base line, but Pitt first baseman Caleb Parry made a great catch and doubled off Lidge at first base to end the inning
Frank Maldonado opened the inning with a two-strike single and moved into scoring position on Parry’s sacrifice bunt. After Shepski issued back-to-back walks to load the bases, Pazos singled to give the Panthers the victory.
- Notre Dame went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-15 with a runner on base. The Irish had a runner on third base with less than two outs three different times and were unable to plate the run.
- Evy Ruibal tossed 3.0 scoreless innings of relief. He worked around three walks, but yielded just a couple hits and fanned one.
- Vierling collected his third consecutive multi-hit game. He went 6-for-13 in the three-game series. Notre Dame allowed just three earned runs in 23.1 innings of the doubleheader.
Key Innings – Game 1
Notre Dame grabbed a 1-0 lead. After Johnson opened the game with a fly out, Kyle Fiala singled and Nick Podkul doubled to put runners on second and third with one out. Fiala scampered home on a passed ball.
Vierling opened the inning with a double and moved to third on Jung’s sacrifice bunt. Vierling then raced home on Matt Pidich’s wild pitch to push the Irish lead to 2-0.
Pitt cut the Irish lead in half with an unearned run off Hearne. Nick Banman ripped a one-out double off the glove of Shepski in deep right field. After a fly out, Hearne appeared as though he would get out of the inning without any damage. He induced a routine ground ball to Podkul, but the second baseman’s throw to a covering Hearne was errant and Banman scored on the error.
With the Irish clinging to a 2-1 lead, Vierling induced a groundout to open the inning, but then plunked Maldonado to put the tying run on base. Parry followed with a single and P.J. DeMeo doubled down the right-field line to tie the score, 2-2. With the winning run just 90 feet away and one out, Vierling sent the game into extra innings with a pop out and ground out.
Daily opened the frame with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on Lidge’s ground ball to the right side of the infield. Shepski gave the Irish a 3-2 lead with an RBI single and Johnson followed with a hit-and-run RBI double to make it 4-2.
Pittsburgh did not go quietly. Jacob Wright led off with a double and moved to third base on a groundout. Parry singled to bring the Panthers within a run, 4-3, but Vierling got a 1-6-3 double play to end the game.
- Notre Dame plated a run in the top of the first inning. It marked just the fourth first-inning run for the Irish this season.
- Hearne did not allow an earned run (one unearned run) over 7.0 innings. He allowed three hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk.
- The 7.0 inning effort for Hearne was his longest of the season. It marked the 12th start of his career in which he worked at least 7.0 innings. Hearne has now registered seven career starts of at least 6.0 innings without surrendering an earned run.
- Shepski, who hit a grand slam in the series opener Friday, continued to swing a hot stick. The designated hitter, who entered the weekend just 5-for-54 on the year, went 3-for-5.
- McDonald registered his second straight multi-hit game. He went 3-for-4 in the series-opening victory on Friday and followed it up with a 2-for-4 effort Sunday.
The Irish return to action on Tuesday for their home opener against Northern Illinois. First-pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m. ET. The game with the Huskies starts a nine-game homestand for Notre Dame. The game can be seen on ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN) with audio on WatchND and 103.1 FM in South Bend. — ND —