Feb. 21, 2014
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Behind three doubles plays from the Irish defense and some clutch hitting from sophomore Kyle Richardson, the University of Notre Dame baseball team snapped a three-game losing streak with an exciting 3-2 win over Gonzaga Friday afternoon at Nelson Wolff Stadium.
The win gave head coach Mik Aoki the 300th of his career and also gave the Irish victories over an NCAA Tournament team (Florida Atlantic) and the West Coast Conference regular season champions (Gonzaga) to open the season.
Making his first start at Notre Dame, junior righty Robert Youngdahl struggled to find the strike zone, but repeatedly prevented the Bulldogs from crossing home plate with a little help from his defense. Right out of the gate, Gonzaga had runners at second and third with two outs. Not rattled, however, Youngdahl induced a 1-2-3 double play to escape the first unscathed.
In the third, Gonzaga worked itself into a bases loaded situation with only one out but first baseman Nick Brooks grounded into a 5-4-3 double play that was started by a nice scoop and throw by freshman third baseman Kyle Fiala.
The final double play occurred in the fourth as Youngdahl forced the Bulldogs to hit into the more routine 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
"The double plays were huge for us," said sophomore shortstop Lane Richards. "Coach Pav (Adam Pavkovich) worked with us a lot during the week in practice and we really got back to the fundamentals. It was a boost of confidence today for our defense to get all those double-play opportunities and to turn them successfully."
Youngdahl (1-0) allowed six hits and walked five in 5.1 innings of work, but exited the game having not allowed a Gonzaga runner to cross home plate. On the day, the Bulldogs left 11 runners on base.
In relief of Youngdahl, freshman Ryan Smoyer (1.1 IP, 2 H) and sophomore Michael Hearne (1.2 IP, 2 K, 1 ER) went three innings before junior Cristian Torres (2 H, 1 ER) earned the save in his first appearance of the year.
The Irish offense managed only six hits, but did just enough to help lead Notre Dame to victory. In the second inning, back-to-back doubles from Richardson and senior Forrest Johnson plated one run before a pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning gave Notre Dame a 3-0 cushion.
After a leadoff walk by freshman Cavan Biggio began the eighth, junior Ryan Bull advanced the Houston, Texas native to second with a sac bunt. Youngdahl was then intentionally walked to give the Irish runners at first and second with one out. Junior Blaise Lezynski stepped up to the plate and had a long fly out that advanced Biggio to third. With runners at the corners and two outs, Richardson blooped a single into shallow right field to bring home Biggio and give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead. Johnson came up next and struck out swinging. However, the ball hit the dirt and catcher Joey Harris threw the ball at the feet of Brooks to allow Johnson to advance safely to first and for Youngdahl to sprint home to give the Irish a 3-0 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth.
Richardson's two hits led the Irish on the day. The multi-hit day was the first of his career. Notching other hits for the Irish were Lezynski, Johnson, Fiala and Richards. Fiala's hit was the first of his young career. Freshman Cavan Biggio went hitless for the first time in five games, but still had two walks, a stolen base and a run scored.
RHP Brandon Bailey (0-1) suffered the loss for the Bulldogs. Bailey threw 117 pitches and went all eight innings, striking out five and walking four. He also had three wild pitches.
Notre Dame (2-3) returns to action at 5 p.m. (ET) Saturday when it plays San Antonio school and Division I newcomer Incarnate Word.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director