May 21, 2015
DURHAM, N.C. — NC State pitchers Brian Brown and Curt Britt combined to strike out 14 University of Notre Dame baseball players Thursday afternoon in hurling a three-hit shutout against the Irish in the first game of pool B play for each team at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament held at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Wolfpack scored all three of their runs in the first two innings to hang on for the 3-0 win.
Brown, who hurled six innings of two-hit ball against the Irish last month at Frank Eck Stadium, was even better Thursday, as he allowed just two hits and two walks over six innings while striking out a career-high 10 batters. This season, Brown has allowed just four hits and three walks to go along with 14 strikeouts in 12 shutout innings against Notre Dame.
“I thought Brian Brown pitched great against us and did a nice job mixing in the fastball, changeup and breaking ball,” said Irish head coach Mik Aoki. “He had us out on our front foot a lot over the course of the game. They took advantage of the opportunities that they had and unfortunately we couldn’t come up with a timely hit when we needed to. I thought it was a well-played game on both sides and they made a couple more plays than we did.”
“He (Brown) was mixing speeds quite a bit,” said Notre Dame third baseman Kyle Fiala. “He went to that changeup quite a bit that had us ahead of a lot of stuff. He got ahead in a lot of counts. When he got ahead I didn’t think we competed as well as we should have, but you have to give him a lot of credit. He did an awesome job.”
After a leadoff walk to catcher Ryan Lidge to start the fourth inning, neither Brown nor Britt allowed another Notre Dame base runner until the bottom of the ninth — a string of 15 straight batters.
Notre Dame’s best scoring chance came in the second inning, when the Irish loaded the bases on an error and two singles from senior third team all-ACC performer Robert Youngdahl and junior Zak Kutsulis. However, Brown shut the door on the opportunity to cut into the Wolfpack (32-20) lead with back-to-back strikeouts.
After Brown went six innings, Britt entered and allowed just one hit over three frames to earn the save. He struck out four batters during his relief stint.
Fiala led the Irish with a hit and walk to extend his on-base streak to 44 games – a streak that leads the ACC and is one of the best in Division I. Youngdahl and Kutsulis added the other hits, while Lidge drew a walk.
Irish senior Scott Kerrigan (3-5) got the start on the mound and ran into trouble early in the game, as the Wolfpack scored two runs in the first and one in the second. In the first frame, Joe Dunand and Ryne Willard both clocked RBI singles with two outs, while Andrew Knizner did the same in the second inning. All three NC State runs came with two outs.
Willard and Knizer both notched two hits for the Wolfpack.
After the tough first two innings, Kerrigan settled down and retired seven in a row over the third throw fifth innings. For the day, the Saugus, California native pitched 5.1 innings and allowed three runs, eight hits, two walks and one hit by pitch while striking out six batters, which tied his season high.
“He (Kerrigan) got back into the strike zone a little more,” said Aoki on what changed with Kerrigan after first two innings. “His breaking stuff got in there and he was a little more precise with his fastball than he was early on. Certainly give their guy credit for coming up with that timely hit that got things rolling.
“I was proud of the way he settled back in after those three runs. I liked the way he competed the rest of the way. Three runs in college baseball can disappear in the blink of an eye and I felt really confident that we would come back, but Brown and Britt did a nice job.”
Sophomore Scott Tully entered in the sixth and had a dominant outing in relief. The Reading, Massachusetts native allowed just one hit over 3.2 shutout innings. He struck out six batters and threw just seven balls in 41 pitches.
Notre Dame (35-20) returns to pool play at 11 a.m. (ET) Friday when they meet No. 7 seed Virginia (34-20). The Cavaliers swept the Irish in a close series at Frank Eck Stadium in late March. Notre Dame sophomore RHP and third team all-ACC performer Ryan Smoyer (8-0, 2.06 ERA) will do battle with LHP Brandon Waddell (3-4, 4.39 ERA) on the mound.
“Tomorrow is going to be another well-played game,” said Fiala. “We just have to bounce back and not think about this one too much and go out and do what we do, which is take the game one pitch at a time and compete the whole way. I think we’ll be fine.”
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director