Feb. 22, 2014
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Behind the pitching of senior Sean Fitzgerald, the hitting of the top of the lineup and four Incarnate Word errors, the University of Notre Dame baseball team topped the Cardinals, 8-2, Saturday afternoon at Nelson Wolff Stadium.
With the win, the Irish have earned a rematch with Santa Clara and will play the Broncos at 12:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday for the Irish Baseball Classic Championship. The Broncos (4-4) defeated the Irish (3-3), 2-1, Thursday night and are 3-0 on the weekend.
Fitzgerald (2-0) didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and looked in control much of the night as he struck out seven. The McLean, Va., native walked none and gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits in 7.2 innings of work.
At the plate, the Irish batters 1-5 scored all of Notre Dame’s eight runs and recorded nine of its 12 hits. Junior Robert Youngdahl led the Irish with three hits and three RBI while adding two runs scored. Leadoff hitter Zac Kutsulis and No. 2 hitter Cavan Biggio also recorded multi-hit games.
“I think it’s important for us to play to who we are regardless of who the opponent is,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “I wanted us to be good and I thought we were. I thought Fitz pitched well. I thought our players went up to the plate with good approaches for the most part, especially our lefthanders. That first guy was a little tough on them as he cut his fastball and was running it in on them a little bit but I thought we did a good job of handling that. I thought we did a good job of getting up there and getting a lead early on, which was important for us to be able play out in front. Then we just let Fitz do his thing and he kept us in command of that game the whole time.”
The Irish were helped all night by an Incarnate Word defense that committed four errors. The first inning was especially rough on the Cardinals as two errors, including one by starting pitcher Alexis Garza where he tried to pickoff Blaise Lezynski but allowed Youngdahl to scamper home, led to three Notre Dame runs.
In the sixth inning, the Cardinals opened up with a fielding error by first baseman Slade Brown and a wild pitch by Brandon Cogbill that placed Lezynski on second. Later in the inning with Lezynski on third, a throwing error by third baseman Jonathan Armijo allowed Lezynski to cross the plate.
“It (errors) can be a demoralizing thing for the opponent,” said Aoki. “We saw that last week against Florida Atlantic when we were kicking the ball around a bit and they got a few hits and capitalized on it. It’s tough on a pitcher’s psyche. It’s tough on a team’s psyche. It’s important to be able to capitalize on those when we get an opportunity.”
The Irish put the game away in the seventh inning as the bats got going without any help from the Cardinal defense. Back-to-back-to-back singles from Biggio, junior Ryan Bull and Youngdahl gave Notre Dame a 6-2 lead, a Lezynski groundout brought Bull home and a Mac Hudgins’ pinch hit double to left field plated Youngdahl.
Notre Dame and Incarnate Word haven’t played since 1988, when the Cardinals bested the Irish in three consecutive games during a spring break trip.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director