May 31, 2015
Box Score – Wright State Game
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It has been said that all good things must come to an end. After a culture change helped pave the way for the University of Notre Dame baseball program to reach its first NCAA Regional in nine years, the Irish saw their historic 2015 season come to an end Sunday with a pair of shutout loses at Illinois Field in the NCAA Champaign Regional. The Irish dropped a 3-0 decision to the No. 6 overall national seed Illinois Fighting Illini in the early game, before falling to Wright State, 4-0, in an elimination contest.
The Irish just couldn’t get much of anything going Sunday, as Illinois pitcher Drasen Johnson hurled a five-high shutout in game one, before Wright State hurler Jack Van Horn threw eight shutout innings of five-hit ball in an elimination game for both teams.
At the plate, Notre Dame tallied just 10 hits on the day. It marked the first time all year that the Irish were shut out in consecutive games.
“It was obviously a difficult day to lose two,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “We felt like we had a really good chance to get into the winner’s bracket today with the way things were lining up. But it wasn’t meant to be.
“The college baseball season comes to an end in an awfully big hurry. This one came to an end in an awfully big hurry today. But I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of our team. Probably my biggest disappointment is the fact that I’m going to wake up tomorrow and not have an opportunity to continue coaching these guys.”
Notre Dame finishes the year at 37-23 overall. The Irish placed third in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference and went 1-2 against talented competition at both the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Championship.
GAME 1: No. 1 Seed Illinois 3, No. 2 Seed Notre Dame 0
Behind a complete-game gem from Illinois pitcher Drasen Johnson and a three-run fifth inning from the Illini offense, the host squad took down Notre Dame, 3-0, in front of 3,002 fans at Illinois Field to advance to Monday’s championship game of the NCAA Champaign Regional.
Johnson (10-3) didn’t get into too much trouble Sunday afternoon, as the redshirt senior allowed just five hits and a walk while striking out six batters to earn the complete-game shutout. He threw 106 pitches to lower his season ERA to a miniscule 1.86.
Notre Dame left eight runners on base, went down in order in five innings and had its best chances go for naught in the first, second and fifth frames.
The Irish had the bases loaded to start off the game after an error, hit by pitch and a walk, but a strike out and fly out ended the threat.
An inning later, the Irish had runners at first and second with two outs and in the fifth they had a runner at third with two outs, but none of the runners could round third and head home.
At the plate, the Illini didn’t have a ton of luck against Irish starter Ryan Smoyer (9-1), but managed to scratch across three runs in fifth inning to saddle the sophomore with his first career loss in 28 appearances.
The Illini had four consecutive hits and a sac fly to score their three runs.
Smoyer finished with his team-high tying sixth quality start, going 7.2 innings and allowing three runs, nine hits and two walks while striking out two batters on a career-high 115 pitches.
Sophomore Kyle Fiala reached base on an error and a fielder’s choice, but couldn’t extend his 47-game on-base streak, as he didn’t tally a hit, walk or hit by pitch. Fiala ends his streak tied with former Notre Dame standout Ryan Connolly for the longest on-base streak by an Irish player since 2007.
Ryan Nagle, Casey Fletcher and David Kerian all had two-hit games for Illinois.
GAME 2: No. 3 Seed Wright State 4, No. 2 Seed Notre Dame 0
Behind another masterful performance by an opposing pitcher, the Irish saw their remarkable 2015 season come to an end Sunday night with a 4-0 loss to Wright State.
Making just his second start of the season, Jack Van Horn twirled a dandy, allowing just five hits over eight shutout innings. The junior righty walked two batters and struck out six in 106 pitches. Closer Andrew Elliott threw a clean ninth to advance the Raiders into Monday’s regional championship game, where they will have to beat Illinois twice to advance.
After struggling against Johnson in game one against Illinois, the Irish put some good swings on the ball against the Raiders, but found defender’s gloves more often than not.
The Irish only advanced to third base once all day (in the eighth inning) and didn’t advance to second more than a couple of times.
Looking to start a new streak going into next year, Fiala had a pair of hits, while Bull, Lane Richards and Kutsulis notched the other base knocks.
Wright State plated one run in both the second and fourth innings and tallied two in the fifth off Irish starter Brandon Bielak. The freshman righty allowed four runs and eight hits over 4.2 innings while striking out five batters.
Fellow freshman Brad Bass had an outstanding evening in relief, throwing 3.1 no-hit innings while allowing just a walk to lower his season ERA to a sterling 1.91.
Shortstop Mitch Roman went 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored to lead the Raiders.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director