Feb. 15, 2014
Box Score – Game One
Box Score – Game Two
BOCA RATON, Fla. — On the opening day of the 2014 season, the University of Notre Dame baseball team split a Saturday doubleheader at No. 24 Florida Atlantic, putting together a complete performance in game one to win, 9-2, before the wheels fell off in a 16-6 loss in the night cap.
Game one brought the excitement of a new season as the Irish played well in all facets of the game against the reigning NCAA Regional qualifiers and ace pitcher Austin Gomber. Notre Dame put up nine runs on 13 hits as five players tallied multi-hit games. Juniors Robert Youngdahl and Ryan Bull each cracked homers, while senior co-captain Forrest Johnson turned in the first three-hit game of his career.
“I felt very comfortable at the plate today,” said the Hudson, Ohio native. “I saw the ball well and I was able to get into some fastball counts where I could really get my pitch.”
On the mound, senior Sean Fitzgerald earned the third opening-day start of his career, picking up the win after going five innings and giving up two runs on three hits. Both runs came in a rocky first before the McLean, Va., native settled in to record 10 consecutive outs at one point.
The win over a ranked squad on opening day is believed to be the first for the Irish since 1998, when they rocked Florida State, 10-1, to jumpstart a 41-17 campaign.
“Game one was exciting for us as we finally got to come out and play in some warm weather,” said Johnson. “We had a lot of guys in new roles after we worked really hard all offseason to fit into those roles. I feel like top to bottom our lineup is more solid than it has been since I’ve been at Notre Dame. I know we lost some big hitters last season, but that constant pressure from the 1-9 hitters this year is really going to try and make up for those losses.”
The second game saw the Owls capitalize on six Irish errors to put up 16 runs on 18 hits. FAU scored four runs in the first and five in the third to pull away from the visiting team early. Six players racked up multi-hit games to pace FAU. Despite the lopsided score, the Irish kept battling, plating three runs in the fifth and one in the eighth.
Neither team had consistent production on the mound or in the field as the two teams combined for 25 hits and nine errors in addition to the 22 runs.
“Game two is not what we wanted, but that is part of baseball,” said Johnson. “The game gave us a lot of learning points of things we did well but also things we need to get better on. We need to wipe the slate clean tomorrow and get ready for the final game. We have an opportunity to win a series and that’s our main focus.”
The two squads will wrap up the three-game series at 1 p.m. Sunday at FAU Stadium. Fans can follow the contest through the gametracker or WatchND links on UND.com.
GAME ONE – Notre Dame 9, #24 Florida Atlantic 2
The Irish struck early and often in the opening contest of the 2014 season as Notre Dame put together nine runs on 13 hits to take down No. 24 Florida Atlantic, 9-2.
Notre Dame looked extremely aggressive early as it beat up first team preseason all-C-USA pitcher Gomber to the tune of six runs on six hits in four innings of work. The Irish jumped on the board in the first as Youngdahl connected for a two-run homer to give the visitors the early lead. Youngdahl’s knocker to left center brought home freshman Cavan Biggio for his first career run. Biggio got on base after inducing a walk on Gomber by showing the patience that the coaches have been raving about since the Houston, Texas native arrived on campus in the fall.
Fitzgerald struck out the first two batters of the game before running into a little bit of trouble as he tried to close out the first frame. The Owls collected a pair of runs on two walks, two singles and a wild pitch to even the score. However, the McLean, Va., native was near lockdown for the rest of his time as he didn’t allow a hit in the second, third or fourth innings. The senior ran into a bit of trouble in the fifth, but put himself in line for a win with a strikeout of leftfielder Tyler Rocklein to close out the frame. Fitzgerald picked up his 14th career win by allowing two runs on three hits. He did walk four batters, but struck out six.
With Fitzgerald dealing, the Notre Dame hitters looked comfortable at the plate as they picked apart Gomber. In the third, Johnson led off with a double to left center and later advanced to third on a groundout. Biggio took over from there as he worked a sac fly to bring in Johnson and notch his first career RBI. Next batter up was junior Ryan Bull. The Eden Prairie, Minn., native promptly cracked a solo homer over the left center field fence to give the Irish a 4-2 lead.
Two more runs followed in the fourth as junior Blaise Lezynski was rewarded for his leadoff double by sophomore Zak Kutsulis, who singled to the pitcher to plate Lezynski after the Newtown, Pa., native advanced to third on a balk by Gomber. Later in the inning, Johnson notched his second hit of the game with a single up the middle that brought home Kutsulis.
Notre Dame closed out its scoring in the seventh and put a fork in the Owls with three more runs. After Biggio earned his second walk of the day and Bull doubled, Youngdahl hit a sac fly to right to score Biggio and Lezynski singled to the first baseman to bring home Bull. Lezynski later scored on a single by junior Kevin DeFilippis and an error by center fielder Billy Endris.
For the game, Youngdahl was 2-for-4 with a homer, three RBI and a run scored; Bull went 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored; Johnson notched his first three-hit game of his career; Lezynski went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and Biggio was a very efficient 1-for-2 with two walks, a sac fly and two runs scored.
Defensively, the Irish committed just one error and turned an impressive three double plays. Reliever David Hearne led the Owls into a pair and freshman Jim Orwick tallied the first two outs of the ninth inning with another. Sophomore Joey Cresta closed out the game with an out in his first action of his career.
GAME TWO – #24 Florida Atlantic 16, Notre Dame 6
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Irish in game two seemed like it did as the Owls poured on 16 runs on 18 hits to earn the convincing victory.
The Notre Dame pitching staff gave up 12 runs (five earned) on 10 hits in the first three innings, while the Irish defense had six errors throughout the game that led to several scoring opportunities for the Owls. Notre Dame also walked nine batters during the game.
Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Kutsulis darted home from third after a routine play at first was mishandled, allowing Bull to get aboard.
However, the lead was short lived as the Owls put up four runs in the first inning due to some clutch hitting that was compounded by an error, hit batsman and a walk. Sophomore Nick McCarty earned the loss after giving up seven runs (three earned) in 2.1 innings of work (two walks, one hit by pitch).
After nothing in the second, FAU played five runs in the third and three more in the fourth to put the game away.
Despite the lopsided score, however, the Irish kept fighting as Lezynski hit an RBI single that turned into two runs due to an error on the centerfielder. Later in the inning, DeFilippis hit a sac fly to trim the lead to 12-5. Notre Dame couldn’t keep the hot FAU bats quiet though as the Owls put up two more runs in the sixth and one run each in the seventh and eighth.
Earning their first playing time of their careers were freshmen pitchers Ryan Smoyer and Scott Tully. In addition, junior pitcher Kyle Rubbinaccio pitched his first two innings since missing all of the 2013 season while recovering from elbow surgery.
Reliever Cody Mizelle earned the win for the Owls as he went 2.2 innings and allowed only one hit. Starter Jeremy Strawn didn’t earn the win as he didn’t pitch the required five innings, getting run out after five runs (one earned) on five hits in 4.1 innings of work.
Sporting a big bat for FAU in the night cap were catcher Levi Meyer (3-for-4, 3 RBI, 2 R), centerfielder J. Bonilla Traverso (2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 R) and second baseman Robert Buckley (3-for-7, 1 RBI, 1 R).
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director