March 5, 2016
Box Score – Bucknell Game (11 Innings)
By Russell Dorn
CARY, N.C. – Just call them the cardiac Irish. For the third time in four games the University of Notre Dame baseball team rallied from a ninth-inning deficit to walk off an opponent. The Brown Bears were the victim this time, as the Ivy League school watched a 6-3 lead vanish in the bottom of the ninth on a Zak Kutsulis three-RBI double that gave the Irish a thrilling, 7-6 victory.
In the nightcap against Bucknell, the Irish nearly did it again, overcoming a 5-2 deficit in the ninth inning to send the game to extras. However, the magic wouldn’t continue as the Bison tallied a run in the 11th inning to come away with the 6-5 win.
Notre Dame (5-5) closes out action at the USA Baseball-Irish Classic at 11 a.m. (ET) Sunday versus Niagara. Fans can follow the action through WatchND’s free audio broadcast in addition to live stats. Links for all three games are on the baseball schedule page.
GAME 1: Notre Dame 7, Brown 6
The Irish bats remained quiet through the first five innings of the game before awaking in the sixth frame on RBI singles by junior Kyle Fiala and Kutsulis.
Two innings later a Matt Vierling RBI single after a Fiala double trimmed the margin to 6-3 entering the ninth frame.
In the ninth, singles by Lane Richards and Kyle Fiala and a walk by Cavan Biggio loaded the bases before a strikeout put two outs on the scoreboard. With Fiala at the dish a passed ball scored Richards and put the score at 6-4. Fiala then walked to load the bases for Kutsulis.
The Homer Glen, Illinois native fouled off one ball before crushing a double off the glove of the left fielder to clear the bases and give the Irish the walk-off win.
After Irish pitching struggled early, freshman Jack Connolly came in the game and righted the ship. The Raynham, Massachusetts native hurled four no-hit innings to earn his first college win. He struck out five and worked around three walks to keep the Bears off the scoreboard for the final four frames.
Sophomore Jake Johnson, Fiala, Kutsulis and Vierling all had two-hit days for Notre Dame. Kutsulis tied his career high with four RBI.
GAME 2: Bucknell 6, Notre Dame 5
The Irish bats got off to a cold start again in the second game of the day, as Notre Dame didn’t plate its first run until the sixth inning for the second game in a row. In the sixth, Fiala continued his hot day at the plate with an RBI single to get the Irish on the scoreboard and trim the deficit to 4-1.
Two innings later Ricky Sanchez tripled to right field to make the score 4-2 and set up another wild ninth inning.
Down 5-2 entering the bottom half of the ninth, Richards, Johnson and Biggio walked back-to-back to open the ninth. Sanchez came through for the Irish again with a two-RBI single before Fiala tallied another RBI single to tie the game at five in thrilling fashion. Notre Dame looked to walk off again, but a groundout moved Sanchez to third base and a strikeout sent the game to extras.
The luck of the Irish ended in the 11th frame as Brett Smith hit a sac fly and Christian Tailor worked around a leadoff walk to clinch the game for the Bison.
Sanchez finished with two hits, a walk and three RBI and Fiala added two hits and two RBI.
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Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.