March 8, 2014
Box Score - Game 1
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame baseball team had its chances in a Saturday doubleheader at No. 6 NC State to open Atlantic Coast Conference play, but the Wolfpack made key plays when needed and capitalized on a couple of Irish miscues to sweep the two-game set, 5-3 and 1-0.
The Irish (5-8, 0-2 ACC) led twice in the first game against All-American lefty Carlos Rodon, taking early 1-0 and 3-1 leads. However, the Wolfpack rallied to score a pair of runs in the sixth and eighth innings to escape with the win. In game two, starting pitcher Logan Jernigan hurled an ace, allowing only four hits in 7.1 innings of work to catapult State to the victory.
"I thought we played well, but NC State made a couple of more plays," said head coach Mik Aoki. However, we are bordering dangerously on that coulda been, shoulda been mantra. We could have very easily been 2-0 or 1-1, but we are not making that play either on defense or that pitch or swing of the bat at critical times when we need to. I think our guys are doing a really good job of competing and playing hard and we put ourselves in a position to beat the No. 6 team in the country twice, but we need to find a way to start winning these games now."
NC State (12-2, 2-0 ACC) and the Irish complete their three-game series at 2 p.m. Sunday. Fans can follow the game through ESPN3, WatchND and Gametracker. Links for all three can be found on UND.com.
Game 1: No. 6 NC State 5, Notre Dame 3
Coming into the game all the talk was on NC State starter Rodon, but the Irish gave the future first rounder all he could handle before falling late, 5-3, in game one of a Saturday doubleheader. Notre Dame had leads at 1-0 and 3-1, but a two-RBI single from Jake Armstrong in bottom of the eighth put the Wolfpack in front for good.
Rodon earned the complete-game win to improve to 2-2 on the year, but not without some struggles. The 6-3, 234 pound lefty hurled 121 pitches, striking out seven as opposed to his usual 9+ per nine innings pitched stat line entering the game.
The Irish jumped on the board first in the third inning as Forrest Johnson was rewarded for his lead-off single with a Ryan Bull sac bunt and then back-to-back singles from Kyle Richardson and Zak Kutsulis that brought home the senior co-captain for Notre Dame's first run in an ACC game in program history.
NC State manufactured a run in the fifth to the tie the game as Armstrong was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a grounder and brought home on a Nathan Hood single to right field. Notre Dame got itself out of the inning by turning its nation-leading 20th double play, and seventh 4-6-3 DP, of the season.
Notre Dame regained the lead in the sixth inning by making Rodon labor through 26 pitches. Kutsulis earned the first walk of the game to lead off the inning and a Kyle Fiala single put runners at first and second with no outs. Cavan Biggio laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners and later in the inning Lezynski had the big two-out, two-RBI single to left field to plate two.
The Wolfpack answered in the bottom half of the sixth as they got Fitzgerald into the first real jam of the afternoon. Catcher Brett Austin opened the inning with a double to left center. A weird chopper to third by centerfielder Jake Fincher advanced Austin to third and gave NC State runners on the corners. All-American shortstop Trea Turner hit into a fielder's choice that forced out Austin at home and put runners at first and second. A wild pitch moved the runners up and a Bubby Riley walk loaded the bases. Second baseman Logan Ratledge stepped to the plate and cracked a single to left field to bring home Fincher and Turner and tie the contest at three.
After recording a pair of outs in the seventh, senior Donnie Hissa entered to try and get the Irish to the ninth. However, NC State had other thoughts. Turner opened the inning with a hit and later advanced on to second on a wild pitch. After Riley walked, Ratledge put down a sac bunt to move both runners into scoring position. Junior Cristian Torres entered to try and control the damage, but Armstrong singled up the middle to bring home both runners and give the Wolfpack a 5-3 advantage.
Notre Dame attempted a comeback in the ninth, as Lezynski and shortstop Lane Richards each singled to right field, but a pop up and a double play gave the Wolfpack the come-from-behind victory.
Turning in a big day at the plate against Rodon was Lezynski, who went 3-for-3 with two RBI. Seven other Irish players registered a hit as Notre Dame out-hit NC State, 10-9.
Irish starting pitcher Sean Fitzgerald went 6.0 innings, gave up three runs on five hits, struck out four and walked one to earn the no-decision. Reliever Michael Hearne struck out one and gave up one base knock in 0.2 innings of work. Hissa (0-1) earned the loss after giving up two runs on one hit in 0.2 innings of relief.
Game 2: NC State 1, Notre Dame 0
The Wolfpack scored a run in the fifth inning and righty starter Jernigan did the rest as NC State completed the doubleheader sweep of the Irish, 1-0, Saturday evening.
With much of the hype on Rodon, Jernigan looked strong against Notre Dame, hurling 7.1 shutout innings, allowing only four hits and two walks while striking out eight in 97 pitches. Jernigan has now thrown 21.2 scoreless innings in a row. Reliever D.J. Thomas entered in the eighth and got the final five outs to earn the save.
The Wolfpack scored the lone run in the fifth after putting runners on base in the second and third innings with no luck. With two outs, catcher Brett Austin took a 0-1 pitch, knocked it to center field and hustled around the bags for a triple. Fincher then rewarded Austin for his effort by hitting a hard shot right to Biggio at second base that was ruled a hit, to score Austin from third.
Notre Dame had several chances in the game, but couldn't capitalize. In the fourth, Youngdahl gave the Irish their first triple of the season with a rocket to left center with two outs, but the third out soon followed on a ground out.
The next inning, starting catcher Ryan Lidge hit the ball deep toward the 380 ft. sign for a double and centerfielder Kyle Richardson drew a walk to give Notre Dame runners at first and second with one out. However, Jernigan avoided another mess with back-to-back strikeouts to end the jam.
Perhaps Notre Dame's best chance at the equalizer came in the eighth. Pinch hitter Mac Hudgins grabbed his third pinch hit of the season, eventually advancing to third on a stolen base followed by an error on Thomas. Kutsulis came up next and hit a rocket to the shortstop that was nabbed out of the air to keep Hudgins on third. A strikeout ended the threat.
Notre Dame put together just five hits on the evening. Starting pitcher Nick McCarty (0-3) suffered his second hard-luck loss of the season as he scattered seven hits over 7.1 innings of work. He struck out six and walked one in 109 pitches.
The shutout loss was the first of the season for Notre Dame.
LIST OF ACC FIRSTS (March 8, 2014 vs. No. 6 NC State - Game 1 of Doubleheader)
Starting Lineup: LF Zak Kutsulis; 3B Kyle Fiala; 2B Cavan Biggio; RF Robert Youngdahl; DH Blaise Lezynski; SS Lane Richards; C Forrest Johnson; 1B Ryan Bull; CF Kyle Richardson; P Sean Fitzgerald
Jersey: Grey Uniforms with blue trim; grey hats
Hit: Blaise Lezynski (Top of second inning; one out; 0-1 count; single to center field)
Walk: Zak Kutsulis (Walk to open sixth inning; 4-2 count)
Sac Bunt: Ryan Bull (Top of third inning; advanced Forrest Johnson to second)
Hit By Pitch: Blaise Lezynski (Top of the fourth inning; 1-1 count, one out)
Run: Forrest Johnson (From third on Zak Kutsulis single in top of third inning)
Strikeout: Sean Fitzgerald (K'd Jake Fincher in bottom of first)
LIST OF ACC FIRSTS (March 8, 2014 vs. No. 6 NC State - Game 2 of Doubleheader)
Double: Ryan Lidge (Top of the fifth inning; 0-0 count; to right center field)
Triple: Robert Youngdahl (Top of the fourth inning; 2-1 count; to left center field)
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director