April 2, 2015
ACC Weekend #5: Pittsburgh
April 3-5, 2015
3 p.m. / 3 p.m. / 1 p.m. (All ET)
Frank Eck Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
Notre Dame: 17-10, 3-9 ACC (22-31, 9-21 ACC In 2014)
2014 Postseason: Did not qualify for postseason
Pitt: 11-16, 4-8 ACC (22-30, 11-19 ACC In 2014)
2014 Postseason: Did not qualify for postseason
Neither team is ranked
Projected Pitching Matchups:
G1: RHP Brandon Bielak (2-1, 4.46 ERA) vs. RHP TJ Zeuch (2-3, 2.83 ERA)
G2: RHP Nick McCarty (3-3, 2.95 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Sandefur (1-3, 2.89 ERA)
G3: RHP Scott Kerrigan (1-4, 4.23 ERA) vs. TBA
Notre Dame leads 37-18
First Meeting: W, A, 5-3 (4/27/1951)
Last Meeting: W, H, 5-4 (5/17/2014)
Aoki vs. Pitt: 9-5 (all at ND)
Live Video: Pitt Video Stream – Paid (Links on UND.com)
Live Audio: WatchND & WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend (Chuck Freeby, pbp)
Live Stats: UND.com
Twitter Reports: @NDBaseball / @NDsidRuss
Weather Report (as of Thursday, April 2):
Friday, April 3: 63 Degrees (Feels like 62 Degrees) / 70% Chance of Rain
Saturday, April 4: 49 Degrees (Low: 37 Degrees) / Partly Sunny
Sunday, April 5: 64 Degrees (Low: 43 Degrees) / Partly Sunny
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — After a nine-game homestand at Frank Eck Stadium that featured a 3-0 sweep of Michigan schools, but a 0-6 mark against top-15 Atlantic Coast Conference schools Louisville (No. 8) and Virginia (No. 12), the University of Notre Dame baseball team hits the road for the first time in three weeks this weekend, as the Irish head to the Steel City and Charles L. Cost Field for a three-game ACC series with the Pitt Panthers.
The Irish and Panthers, long-time BIG EAST foes, are playing each other for the second year in a row as members of the ACC. Last year, Notre Dame closed out its tough 2014 season with a sweep of the Panthers that eliminated Pitt from ACC & NCAA Tournament consideration.
Highlighting the weekend was the play of then-junior Ryan Bull, who produced the game-winning RBI that clinched the series in the Friday game before crushing a game-winning, walk-off homer in the series finale to close out the Irish campaign on a positive note.
The two moments are just a few in a long career of breaking Pitt hearts for Bull. The rest are documented in the “Around The Bases” section at the bottom of this preview.
Jumping to this year, the two programs find themselves getting set for a key league series that could decide a lot by the end of the year. Notre Dame (17-10, 3-9 ACC) sits in last place in the Atlantic Division, but could quickly make up ground with a series win. Meanwhile, Pitt (11-16, 4-8 ACC) is tied for last place in a whacky Coastal Division where every team has at least four conference losses including six squads that have at least six.
Both teams can point to production at the plate as something that must improve. Notre Dame (.252 AVG) and Pitt (.251 AVG) are 13th and 14th, respectively, in the league in batting average. In ACC play only, Notre Dame is dead last with a .213 average, while Pitt is 12th (.227).
On the mound, the Irish are fifth in team ERA (3.33), while the Panthers are eighth (3.72).
The Irish have run the gauntlet to open their ACC slate, as they started on the road against perennial ACC powers Georgia Tech and Clemson, before shifting back to Frank Eck Stadium and matchups with two of the elite pitching units in the country (UVA and Louisville).
Despite the losses, Notre Dame has more than competed against some of the best squads in the conference, dropping three games against Louisville and two against Virginia by three runs or less, with four of those games coming by two runs or less.
Pitt jumped out to a good start in league play by taking one game against then-No. 1 Virginia, before winning two-of-three from then-No. 11 North Carolina in Pittsburgh.
The Irish are reorganizing their rotation a bit this weekend, as freshman Brandon Bielak (2-1, 4.46 ERA) will take the ball for Friday’s opening game. Junior Nick McCarty (3-3, 2.95 ERA) and senior Scott Kerrigan (1-4, 4.23 ERA) will follow Bielak on the mound.
Pitt is set to counter with RHP TJ Zeuch (2-3, 2.83 ERA) and RHP Aaron Sandefur (1-3, 2.89 ERA) for Friday and Saturday’s games. The Panthers’ Sunday starter is still undecided.
First pitch in the series is set for 3 p.m. Friday, with a 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday matchup closing out the three-game set. Fans can follow for free through WatchND’s audio coverage on UND.com (WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend) or can pay $9.95 for a monthly subscription to Pitt’s video stream service that will cover all three games. A link for the video stream can be found on UND.com.
AROUND THE BASES
ABOUT THE PITT SERIES
The Irish hold a 37-18 lead in a series that dates back to well before the BIG EAST days (1996-2013) … Notre Dame and the Panthers met at Frank Eck Stadium last year for the first time as ACC members, with the Irish sweeping the Panthers to eliminate them from any ACC/NCAA Tournament possibilities.
BULL COMES UP BIG AGAINST THE PANTHERS
The Pittsburgh baseball team might see Irish senior Ryan Bull in its nightmares, as the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native has absolutely broken the Panthers’ hearts during his career. In 11 career games against Pitt, Bull has two walk-off homers, a walk-off single and a game-winning RBI … here’s more about each big hit:
– March 23, 2012: Tied at five entering the bottom of the ninth, Bull leads off the inning and clubs a 1-0 pitch over the RF wall for the 6-5 victory.
– May 25, 2013: In an elimination game at the BIG EAST Tournament, the Irish and the Panthers were tied at two entering extra innings … in the bottom of the 10th, ND had the bases loaded with two outs when Bull stepped to the dish … he promptly took a 1-1 pitch and sent it to LF to score the game-winning run that sent the Irish to the BIG EAST Championship game.
– May 16, 2014: With the score tied at zero and runners on first and second base with one out, Bull stepped to the dish and smacked a 1-1 pitch to RC field to score the lone run of the game in a 1-0 ND victory … the win clinched the series victory for the Irish.
– May 17, 2014: Tied at four entering the bottom of the ninth, Bull leds off the inning and rips the first pitch over the RF wall for the 5-4 win … the game was the season finale for both teams … the win completed the sweep for ND.
DOUBLE PLAY MACHINES
After leading the nation for much of the year in double plays and double plays per game in 2014 before shortstop Lane Richards missed the rest of the season with an injury, the Irish are back to business in 2015, as they are first in the ACC and second in Division I in double plays per game (1.44) and double plays (39) … in ACC games, the Irish are turning two at an impressive pace, totaling 22 through nine games … since 2012, Notre Dame has turned 207 double plays, which is believed to be among the top-10 teams in the country in that category.
SCORING IN BUNCHES
After scoring two or more runs in an inning only 54 times last year in 53 games, the Irish are scoring in bunches this season, as they have plated two or more runs in 45 innings.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director