March 6, 2016
By Russell Dorn
CARY, N.C. – Another day, another memorable walk-off moment for the University of Notre Dame baseball team. Tied at four in the bottom of the 10th inning after a wild nine innings, freshman Matt Vierling turned on a 3-1 pitch and crushed the ball over the leftfield wall to walk off Niagara 5-4 and end a game that lasted 3:45. The walk-off win is the fourth in the past seven games for the cardiac Irish. Only two of Notre Dame’s six wins this season hasn’t been by walk off.
If the walk-off homer wasn’t enough for Vierling, the dual-threat player from St. Louis hurled a clean 10th frame on the mound to pick up his first career victory.
The performance only adds to the impressive start to the career of Vierling, who leads the Irish in batting average (.333), homers (2), RBI (11), total bases (20) and slugging percentage (.513), is tied for first in hits (13) and is second in on-base percentage (.435) while starting all 11 games between right field and designated hitter.
Getting to the walk off was quite the ordeal, as a scrappy Niagara team gave the Irish all they could handle Sunday afternoon in the finale of the USA Baseball-Irish Classic. The Purple Eagles tallied 18 hits, but left a remarkable 19 runners on base in scoring just four runs.
Second baseman Michael Fuhrman strolled to the plate six times and unbelievably recorded hits all six times. His RBI single in the ninth inning gave Niagara a 4-2 lead going to the bottom half of the inning.
Notre Dame used five pitchers in trying to get Niagara out. In addition to Vierling’s clean 10th frame, senior RHP David Hearne kept the Irish in the game early by working out of two severe jams.
In the fourth inning Hearne worked around two walks and a wild pitch to record three consecutive outs. An inning later, the Purple Eagles loaded the bases with one out, but Hearne struck out back-to-back players to keep the scoreboard clean.
On offense, the Irish had big RBI walks in both the sixth and eighth innings by Kutsulis and junior Ryan Lidge, respectively. In the ninth, junior Cavan Biggio came through with a clutch, RBI double down the right field line to tie the game at four and send it to extras.
Biggio recorded the only multi-hit day for the Irish with two hits, a RBI, a walk and two runs scored. Fiala and Kutsulis both tallied two walks.
Notre Dame (6-5) jumps into Atlantic Coast Conference play next weekend at No. 4 Louisville.
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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.