April 1, 2016
By Ben Auwaerter
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – In a bizarre game that had a little bit of everything, the University of Notre Dame baseball team scored the go-ahead run on a Demon Deacon throwing error in the bottom of the ninth inning to walk off Wake Forest University, 6-5, Friday night at Frank Eck Stadium and extend its season-high winning streak to six games.
The Irish were within one run entering the bottom of ninth inning, when a torrential downpour hit the stadium. With two outs, runners on second and third and freshman Matt Vierling at the plate, the head umpire called for a delay. When play resumed 33 minutes later, Vierling hit a grounder to the shortstop on the first pitch. The Wake Forest defender’s throw, however, was off target, and Notre Dame scored two runs to give the Irish the thrilling victory.
The walk-off win was the fifth of the season for the “Cardiac Irish,” with Vierling playing a direct hand in each of the last two. Notre Dame last put together a streak of six wins or more near the beginning of last year when the Irish strung together 10 victories in a row.
Four hours earlier, at the game’s beginning, the Demon Deacons had gotten off to a quick start. They tallied three runs against Notre Dame’s starter, junior Ryan Smoyer, in the first inning. After that, Smoyer fell into a rhythm, retiring seven batters in a row on just 15 pitches.
The Irish plated one run in the fourth inning to make the score 3-1. Wake Forest answered with an RBI double in the next frame to up its lead to 4-1.
Notre Dame tightened the game up when senior Lane Richards launched a homerun to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning. His solo blast cut the Demon Deacons’ lead to 4-2.
In the seventh, Wake Forest extended its lead to 5-2 when third baseman Will Craig knocked a double to center field.
That was the only run allowed by a Notre Dame relief pitcher on the night. The effort was highlighted by sophomore Brandon Bielak, who tossed four innings, struck out four, and was ultimately credited with his second win of the season.
A pair of homeruns brought the Irish within one run. In the seventh inning, junior Cavan Biggio slammed his third homerun of the year, a solo shot over the right field fence.
An inning later, sophomore Jake Shepski crushed a pinch-hit homerun to make the score 5-4. The homer was the fourth in barely a week for the Lockport, Illinois native.
The ninth inning turned out to be quite eventful. Freshman Connor Stutts led off the inning with a pinch-hit walk. Torii Hunter Jr. replaced him as a pinch runner. In the next at-bat, Biggio grounded a single to right field, but was thrown out at second base. This left Hunter Jr. at third base with one out. That is when the rain began to fall in sheets.
The teams initially played through it, and freshman Nick Podkul lined a ball that was caught by a leaping Wake defender. With two outs, Wake Forest intentionally walked senior Zak Kutsulis, bringing up Vierling. During the at-bat, Kutsulis swiped second base. Vierling had worked the count to 1-1 when the rain forced the umpires to call for a delay that created even more drama for what ensued directly following the resumption of play.
Fantastic individual performances by Biggio and Richards helped make the Irish win possible. Biggio finished the day 3-4 with a homer, walk and a run. He raised his on-base percentage to .513 for the year. Richards went 3-4 with two runs. He finished a triple shy of the cycle.
Due to inclement weather scheduled to hit South Bend Saturday, the Irish and Demon Deacons will now close out their three-game ACC series with a Sunday doubleheader set to get underway at 10 a.m. (ET).
Irish fans can watch both games live on WatchND’s video broadcast. The second game will also be available in South Bend through WHME 103.1 FM.
For more information on the Notre Dame baseball, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).
Ben Auwaerter is a freshman at Notre Dame and is from Lutherville, Maryland. He previously worked during the summer of 2014 with the Baltimore Orioles public relations office.