April 24, 2015
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Behind senior Robert Youngdahl’s 4-for-5 night and three solo homers from his Irish teammates, the University of Notre Dame baseball team claimed another Atlantic Coast Conference Friday night win with a 9-5 victory over Wake Forest at Gene Hooks Field.
Youngdahl, who upped his season average to .300, had a monster night with a career-high tying four hits, three RBI and two runs scored to help lead his squad to victory. His biggest hit came in the ninth inning, when he clubbed a two-RBI double that upped Notre Dame’s lead to 9-3 heading to the bottom half of the frame.
After struggling with consistent hitting in his first year at Notre Dame in 2014, Youngdahl has been ultra-consistent this season, totaling hits in 30 of 41 games. He hasn’t had back-to-back hitless games all year.
In three games this week, the New Brighton, Minnesota native is batting .538 with seven hits, three doubles, seven RBI and three runs scored. He has a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .571 on-base percentage.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on my approach a little bit and I think it’s finally starting to click, especially with two strikes,” said Youngdahl. “I’m seeing the ball better, adjusting to the off speed and hitting it where it’s pitched.”
The Irish took advantage of a small Demon Deacon park, as they hit three homers on the night. Sophomore Cavan Biggio connected on a solo homer with two outs in the first inning. Junior Lane Richards followed with a solo homer of his own in the eighth to give the Irish a 6-3 lead. One inning later, sophomore Kyle Fiala cracked a two-out solo homer to jump start a critical three-run ninth inning and extend his on-base streak to 30 games.
With the win, the Irish improved to 5-3 in Friday night ACC games, holding opponents to 10 runs total in the five wins. Notre Dame (28-13, 12-10 ACC) has also won nine of its last 10 league games to move into third place in the Atlantic Division and into fourth place overall in the conference standings.
The Irish took advantage of Wake Forest miscues early, as an error and two wild pitches helped stake Notre Dame to a 4-0 lead through four innings. Highlighting the four innings was Biggio’s solo homer and an RBI groundout by junior Zak Kutsulis. Two other Irish runs scored on wild pitches by Wake starter Matt Pirro (6-3, 7.0 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO).
A big key to Notre Dame’s victory Friday night was the ability to answer Wake’s runs, as the Irish scored a run in the fifth after the Demon Deacons’ run in the fourth and then delivered three runs in the ninth after two Wake runs in the eighth.
Joining Youngdahl with impressive nights at the plate were Biggio (1-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 R) and senior Ryan Bull (2-for-4, 1 R).
Notre Dame starter Ryan Smoyer wasn’t his usual sharp self and was pulled after 3.2 innings and 59 pitches. He allowed just one run despite giving up four hits and two walks.
Former Friday starter Scott Kerrigan (2-4) replaced Smoyer and gave the Irish 3.2 solid innings to pick up his second win of the year. He allowed two runs on six hits.
Leading the ACC in hitting heading into the game (.303 AVG), Wake clubbed 14 hits on the night, led by freshman Stuart Fairchild’s perfect 5-for-5 night. Second baseman Nate Mondou had two hits and two runs scored, while designated hitter Will Craig totaled two hits and two RBI.
Game two of the three-game series is set for 4 p.m. (ET) Saturday. The game can be watched online through ESPN3, while WatchND and WHME 103.1 FM (South Bend) will offer audio coverage. Links for video and audio are on UND.com.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director