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Irish Tame Wildcats, 6-2

Dominant pitching performance limits Northwestern to just two hits

NOTRE DAME, Ind. –  The University of Notre Dame baseball team (14-21) defeated the Northwestern Wildcats (16-17) by a score of 6-2 at Frank Eck Stadium on the back of masterful pitching performances by Tommy Vail and Andrew Belcik.

Vail tossed a career high five innings and after allowing a solo home run in the first, retired the next 14 batters he faced. Andrew Belcik closed the door for the Irish, collecting his first save after three innings of work without allowing a hit. Jack Zyska also recorded a career-high four RBIs in the Irish’s victory.

How It Happened 

After Irish starting pitcher Tommy Vail struck out Northwestern’s leadoff man, Jack Dunn, the Wildcats got on the scoreboard early in the first inning on the back of a solo home run from third baseman Alex Erro. Vail rebounded nicely, striking out the next two Northwestern batters to keep the Wildcats’ lead at just one.

Spencer Myers got Notre Dame’s offense started with a line drive single to left field in the bottom of the first, and he stole second base to give the Irish a man in scoring position with no outs. A fielding error from Northwestern pitcher Parker Hanks put runners on the corners for Notre Dame, and Zyska’s four-pitch walk loaded the bases for the Irish, giving them a golden opportunity to erase their deficit. First baseman Daniel Jung cashed in on the scoring chance, hitting into an RBI fielder’s choice to knot the score at 1-1. 

Vail posted a clean frame in the top of the second inning, sitting down all three Northwestern batters in order. The Irish hurler also added to his strikeout total when he fanned Ben Dickey with an expertly-placed breaking ball.  

Hanks looked poised to match Vail’s perfect inning after he put away the first two Irish batters in the bottom of the second, but Jake Singer ripped a single through a gap in the infield to keep Notre Dame’s inning alive. Singer proceeded to steal second to give the Irish another scoring opportunity, and Myers whacked another single to put two men on base for Notre Dame. An intentional walk to Niko Kavadas loaded the bases, and Zyska brought two men home with a sharp single to left, giving the Irish a 3-1 edge. However, Eric Gilgenbach’s deep shot to center field was gloved by David Dunn, and Notre Dame headed into the third inning up by a pair of runs.

Vail notched his fifth strikeout in the top of the third, and his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning allowed the Irish to maintain their two-run advantage.

Notre Dame designated hitter Carter Putz notched his first career triple in the bottom of the third inning with a rocket shot to right-center field. Shortstop Jared Miller laid down a squeeze bunt to give the Irish four runs on the evening, but Northwestern got out of the inning without incurring any further damage on the scoreboard.

Notre Dame’s defense kept its scoreless streak alive in the top of the fourth, as Vail posted his third straight 1-2-3 inning to keep the score at 4-1. Vail also recorded his sixth strikeout of the evening when he sat down Willie Bourbon.

Vail worked another clean inning in the top of the fifth, inducing a pair of flyouts and a groundout to keep Northwestern off the scoreboard for the fourth consecutive inning. By completing the fifth inning, Vail set a career high with five innings pitched.

The Irish brought in righty reliever Shane Combs to toss the sixth inning, and though he retired two of the first three Wildcats, he was unable to sit down Alex Erro, who slugged a double to right field to give Northwestern its second run of the evening. However, Combs managed to induce a groundout to get Notre Dame out of the inning relatively unscathed.

Right-handed hurler Andrew Belcik worked the seventh for the Irish, and he delivered a scoreless inning that was punctuated by a pair of strikeouts.

Notre Dame registered another warning-track blast in the seventh, but Dunn made a sensational snag to keep the Irish off the base paths. After Dunn’s catch, Notre Dame headed to the top of the eighth with a two-run lead.

In the first half of the eighth frame, Belcik picked up right where he left off, striking out both Northwestern pinch-hitter Michael Trautwein and right fielder Casey O’Laughlin to give him four Ks on the evening. Two batters later, Belcik retired Dunn to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard for the second consecutive inning.

A hit-by-pitch put catcher David LaManna on base for the Irish with no outs in the bottom of the eighth, and a diving stop by Wildcats second baseman Shawn Goosenberg held Singer to a fielder’s choice in the ensuing at-bat. After another hit-by-pitch, Notre Dame had men on first and second with only one out in the inning. Following a strikeout, left fielder Jack Zyska cranked a triple to the right field wall, scoring two, but he was tagged out after over-sliding to leave the Irish up 6-2 after eight innings.  

Notre Dame called upon Belcik again to pitch the ninth, and he shut the door on the Wildcats, en route to recording a fifth strikeout and a save in the Irish’s 6-2 victory. 

Game Notes

  • Tommy Vail set a career high for the second straight week, tossing five innings against the Wildcats.
  • He allowed just the one run, one hit, struck out six and retired 14 batters in a row to end the outing without allowing a walk.
  • Andrew Belcik recorded his first save of the season after pitching the final three innings.
  • He struck out five batters, walked one and did not allow a hit.
  • Freshman Jack Zyska tallied a career high four RBI in the win, including his first career triple in the bottom of the eighth.
  • Spencer Myers stole two bases for his four multi-steal game of the season. He leads the team with 15 steals on the season.
  • Myers scored three runs, his fifth game this season with three or more runs.
  • Fellow freshman Carter Putz also recorded his first career triple against the Wildcats.

Up Next

The Irish will head out on the road for an ACC weekend series against Pitt. The three game series will begin Friday night with first pitch slated for 6 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the Irish baseball program, follow @NDBaseball on Twitter and @NotreDameBaseball on Instagram. For tickets to an Irish baseball game, click here.