April 29, 2017
By Michael Scholl
NOTRE DAME, Indiana — Matt Vierling delivered a walk-off triple to give Notre Dame a 3-2 victory and series win over Duke on Saturday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium.
The victory gave the Irish two-of-three over the Blue Devils in a pivotal ACC series, which due to impending rain saw Notre Dame complete a league series in less than 24 hours for the second week in a row. The teams split a doubleheader Friday. Last week, the Irish played a similarly altered schedule while dropping two-of-three at No. 19 Virginia.
Irish starter Brad Bass was spotted a 2-0 lead after the first and held Duke without a hit until the fifth and without a run until the seventh. All told, he allowed four hits and two runs, just one earned, with four strikeouts in seven innings of work. Sean Guenther pitched two scoreless innings of relief to pick-up the victory.
At the plate, Vierling and Kyle Fiala were both 2-for-4, while Fiala scored twice. Ryan Lidge went 1-for-3 with an RBI while running his on-base streak to 23 games. Nick Podkul was 1-for-4 with a run.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first. Podkul started the inning with a single up the middle. After Jake Johnson flew out, Fiala executed a hit-and-run to perfection with a single through the right side to put runners on the corners. Mik Aoki continued to play small ball, sending Fiala to steal second with Podkul scoring on the double steal to make it 1-0. After Vierling singled to put runners on the corners, Lidge grounded out to third, scoring Fiala. Cole Daily flew out to end the frame.
Bass cruised into the seventh when Duke finally got on the scoreboard. Jimmy Herron led off the frame with a double, but Bass got a groundout to third from Zack Kone and struck out Griffin Conine before Jack Labosky drew a walk. Michael Smiciklas laced a two-out double down the right-field line to score Herron and cut the Irish lead to 2-1. Kennie Taylor grounded out to end the frame.
The Blue Devils took advantage of an Irish miscue to tie things up in the eighth. Max Miller got it started with a leadoff single, then Erikson Nichols laid down a sacrifice bunt but Bass tried to go to second and threw it into centerfield, setting up runners on the corners. Aoki went to Sean Guenther and on his first pitch, Peter Zyla delivered a sac fly to left to tie the game. Guenther then conceded a single and hit a batter to load the bases, but got Conine swinging and a groundout from Labosky to keep it tied, 2-2.
The visitors again threatened to take the lead in the ninth, only to see Guenther slam the door. Taylor dumped a one-out triple in the corner to put the go-ahead run 90 feet away. Miller hit a chopper over the mound that froze Taylor at third as Podkul made the play to retire the hitter at first. Then Nichols flew out to Vierling to keep it at 2-2 going to the bottom of the ninth.
Duke brought Labosky to the mound to start the frame and he walked Johnson to lead things off. Fiala bunted, but sent it right back to the pitcher and Johnson was retired at second. Vierling then drove a 1-1 pitch into the gap in right-center, just out of reach on a diving attempt by the centerfielder, Taylor, to score Fiala and win the game.
The Irish will play host to Northwestern for a nonconference game on Tuesday, May 2. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m., with the game available on ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN), WatchND and 103.1 FM.
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Michael Scholl joined Fighting Irish Media in August 2016, coordinating communications for the baseball program and assisting with the football team at his alma mater. The South Bend native earned a degree in political science from the College of Arts & Letters in 2009 before going on to work in athletics communications at Providence College, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.