March 21, 2017
By Ben Auwaerter
NOTRE DAME, Indiana — On a blustery home-opener at Frank Eck Stadium, the University of Notre Dame baseball team exhibited great plate discipline in a 12-1 victory over Northern Illinois. The win featured a pair of five-run innings, as well as a season-high 12 walks. The Irish are now 7-12 on the season and have won four of their last five games.
A group of Irish pitchers proved tough to handle on Tuesday night. Scott Tully, Charlie Vorsheck, Cameron Brown, Shane Combs and Ryan Smoyer combined to hold NIU batters to five hits, striking out nine Huskies in the process. It was a special night in particular for Combs, who made his Notre Dame debut after an injury caused him to miss his freshman season. Tully was credited with the win and moved to 2-0 on the season as the senior continues to operate on a pitch count as he returns from surgery.
Matt Vierling had an exceptional day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with one run, two walks and two RBI. Cole Daily also frustrated Husky pitchers with his 2-3, one walk outing. The two sophomores upped their batting averages to .348 and .347, respectively, with their efforts.
Tully rolled through the first two innings, having struck out five straight Huskies at the start of the third. Northern Illinois finally got to the Irish lefty when Carl Russell ripped a double to open the inning. After a productive groundout, a Husky sacrifice fly scored Russell and gave NIU a 1-0 lead.
The Irish responded in a big way in the bottom half of the frame. Junior Jake Johnson led things off with a walk. After Johnson scurried to second on a wild pitch, Kyle Fiala lined a single to center field, scoring Johnson and tying up the game. Following a Huskie error, the Irish displayed excellent patience at the plate. Five Notre Dame walks forced in four more runs, giving the home team a 5-1 lead.
Notre Dame blew the game wide open in the fifth inning. After a single by Patrick McDonald, the Huskies committed a throwing error on an Irish bunt attempt. Heads-up baserunning from McDonald allowed the freshman to score from first on the play. The Irish continued to reach base in a variety of ways, ultimately plating four additional runs and pushing their lead to 10-1.
Notre Dame left nothing to chance Tuesday night, as the team continued to tack on runs in the seventh. Johnson began the Irish half of the inning with a walk. Podkul and Vierling both followed with line-drive singles to center field, driving home one run in the process. A loud sacrifice fly to right field by freshman Daniel Jung would generate Notre Dame’s twelfth and final run.
The Team’s Thoughts
Vierling on his big night…
“I kind of knew how they were going to throw me and I understood the patterns of the pitchers. I felt good at the plate, calm. The cold didn’t really get to me too much. The whole team hit like that tonight, which was good.
Vierling on the team’s recent hot streak…
“We struggled at the beginning of the season, but now we are on a roll. Everybody is playing well. This happened to us last year as well. We started out a little slow but then we hit our stride. I think we are having a lot of fun playing and a lot of fun winning, it’s a lot better than losing. Everyone is having a great time and everyone is really confident in themselves.
Head Coach Mik Aoki on the team’s patience…
“We’ve been harping on the idea of being more patient and doing a better job of picking a pitch we can do something with early on in the count. Truth be told, some of the walks were on pitches that weren’t incredibly competitive, but it was good that we could draw those walks.”
Aoki on Shane Combs’ Notre Dame debut…
“He came in with an arm injury. He ended up getting Tommy John immediately following his senior year of high school and has been rehabbing it pretty much ever since. He had a couple little setbacks here and there, so this was the first time he has been able to go out there. He’s a hard-working kid and a high-energy guy. He cares about this place and this program, so it was nice to see him get out there and do well.
Wednesday’s game versus Toledo has been postponed until April 12th at 6:05 p.m. ET. The Irish will return to action this Friday, opening up a three-game set against No. 13 Florida State at Frank Eck Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m. ET and can be seen on WatchND and heard live on 103.1 FM in South Bend.
— ND —
Ben Auwaerter is a sophomore at Notre Dame and is from Lutherville, Maryland. He previously worked during the summer of 2014 with the Baltimore Orioles public relations office.