March 25, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On the strength of a pair of monster innings at the plate, the University of Notre Dame baseball team improved to 13-1 in non-conference games this season with an 8-3 win over Western Michigan Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium.
After scoring just four runs against a talented Louisville pitching staff in 36 innings this past weekend, the Irish bats came to play Wednesday, as they plated eight runs on 12 hits and six walks. Notre Dame scored five runs in the first three innings, including four in the third frame, and added three more in the seventh to pull away from the visitors from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Notre Dame upped its all-time advantage over WMU to 69-66-1. The two teams have now played 136 times since the series began in 1914, which is the most meetings between the Irish an opponent in any sport. The two schools will play in Kalamazoo May 12.
On the mound, Irish midweek starter Ryan Smoyer (2-0) picked up the second win of his career with a solid 5.1 innings of work. He allowed two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out three. In relief, sophomore Scott Tully went 1.2 innings, while freshman Sean Guenther pitched two innings and gave up an unearned run to close out the game.
Tully pitched out of a couple of big jams while the game was still very much in doubt. In the sixth, he entered with runners on first and second with one out. After a walk loaded the bases, the Reading, Massachusetts native induced two pop ups to the infield to get out of the inning unscathed. A frame later, a pair of walks with two outs brought the tying run to the plate. However, Tully forced a fly out to end another threat and set the stage for a big Notre Dame seventh inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Lidge tallied his fourth hit of the game with a ground-rule double to the heart of the park to give ND runners on second and third with one out. After an intentional walk was issued to pinch hitter Brandon Bielak, junior Kyle Richardson cracked a single to right field to plate two runners and up Notre Dame’s lead to 7-2. Fellow junior Zak Kutsulis then put down a spectacular bunt single that scored another Irish run to put the home squad up six.
“We had second and third and they decided to intentionally walk Bielak (Brandon Bielak) so I decided to go up there with the approach of not trying to do too much,” said Richardson. “Coaches and teammates encouraged me to stay with my approach and look up the middle. I’ve had a couple of hits up the middle already so I didn’t want to change anything. I got a pitch to hit and I was able to do my job.
“That approach has been part of my game my whole life, but I’ve always battled with trying to do too much. This year I’ve really settled down and had confidence in that approach and been able to put it together.”
Plenty of Irish bats helped in the effort, as eight different players recorded hits and two other student-athletes reached base via a walk. Sophomore Kyle Fiala filled in for regular lead-off hitter nicely with a hit, two walks, RBI and walk, while Richards tallied a hit, RBI, walk and two runs scored in the three hole.
Lidge tied a career-high with four hits (4-for-4) that included two doubles. He also scored a game-high three runs and had an RBI. Richardson plated a career-high three runs and designated player James Nevant tallied the first hit, walk and run scored of his season.
For Western Michigan (8-12), first baseman Hunter Prince went 2-for-3 (two doubles) with a team-high two RBI in addition to tallying a walk.
Notre Dame (16-7, 3-6 ACC) is well ahead of its 2014 pace, as the Irish won their 16th game last year on April 20. The squad returns to action this weekend when 2014 College World Series runner-up Virginia (15-8, 3-6 ACC) invades Frank Eck Stadium for a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series. The Cavaliers, ranked in the top 25 in every major poll, and the Irish get the series started with a 6:05 p.m. (ET) Friday game slated to be video streamed live on ESPN3.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director