May 6, 2017
By Ben Auwaerter
NOTRE DAME, Indiana — On a blustery day at Frank Eck Stadium, the University of Notre Dame baseball team fell to the No. 2 University of Louisville Cardinals, 5-1. The Irish held their own until the fifth inning when strong winds and an error allowed the Cardinals to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Michael Hearne pitched solidly for the Irish, allowing four earned runs over 6.2 innings. The Notre Dame bats, however, were stymied by Louisville’s Kade McClure, who hurled seven frames of one-run ball.
The game served as Notre Dame’s annual Strike Out ALS contest. In 2012, former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates, was diagnosed with ALS. This tragic news hit close to home for many, including Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki; Frates had been the team captain during Aoki’s first year as head coach for Boston College. As Frates continued his battle with the disease, he created an organization that had a mission to strike out ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge, a worldwide phenomenon that raised funds to find a cure for the disease, was famously co-founded by Frates. The Irish raised funds and donned special red hats and socks for the event. Fans can bid on the game-worn jerseys at UND.com/auctions.
The loss puts the Irish record at 23-25 for the season, with a 10-15 mark in conference play. The second-ranked Cardinals clinched the series victory over Notre Dame with their win. Sophomore Matt Vierling recorded three hits on the day, pushing his average up to .319 for the season. Junior Jake Shepski also reached base three times, registering two walks and getting hit by a pitch.
For the second game in a row, Louisville took the lead on a ball pushed just beyond the right-field wall. After Hearne retired the first two Cardinals, second baseman Devin Mann drove a pitch to deep right field. Right fielder Jake Shepski gave the ball a chase, but his efforts came up short, as the ball flew just over the outfield fence. Mann’s seventh homerun of the season put the Cardinals ahead, 1-0.
Hearne worked out of a jam to keep the game close in the fourth inning. Louisville’s designated hitter, Brendan McKay, led off the frame by working a walk. Following a Cardinal strikeout, catcher Colby May ripped a single to right field and moved McKay to third. Hearne proceeded to strike out his second batter of the inning, keeping the runners on the corners. With two outs, Louisville’s Colin Lyman grounded a pitch up the center of the diamond. Notre Dame’s shortstop, Cole Daily, dazzled with a diving stop, flipping to Nick Podkul at the bag at second to keep the score 1-0.
Notre Dame got on the board in the bottom of the frame. Vierling notched his second single of the day to begin the home half. After a strikeout and a fielder’s choice, the Irish had a runner on first with two outs. This set the stage for Daniel Jung. On an 0-1 count, the freshman lined a ball to left field that bounced over the outfielder’s head. Daily sprinted from first on the play, crossing home plate and tying the game, 1-1.
The wind played havoc with the Irish defense in the fifth. Hearne started off the frame strong, retiring the first Cardinal batter on a fly-out to left field. Following a walk, Louisville’s Logan Taylor laid down an excellent bunt and reached base on a single. With Cardinals on first and second, Devin Hairston hit a fly ball to right field. On most days this ball is caught, however, strong gusts of wind blew the ball away from the right fielder, Shepski. The ball bounced just in front of the junior, allowing one Louisville run to cross the plate. During the next at-bat, an Irish throwing error allowed two more runs to score, giving the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.
The Irish will complete the series with the Cardinals on Sunday. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET at Frank Eck Stadium. The game can be seen on ACC Network Extra and heard live on WatchND and 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.