March 23, 2014
WESTFIELD, Ind. - On a brutally cold day at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., the University of Notre Dame and Virginia Tech baseball teams decided nine innings weren’t enough to decide the rubber game of their Atlantic Coast Conference series. Both teams had chances to win in extras, but the Hokies capitalized by plating a run in the top of the 12th inning to win, 5-4, and take the series, 2-1.
The deciding run came in the top of the 12th inning against sophomore LHP Michael Hearne, who was in his ninth inning of relief duty. After a leadoff single from Alex Perez, star catcher Mark Zagunis hit into a fielder’s choice that put out Perez at second. Miguel Ceballos stepped into the batter’s box and hit a grounder back up the middle that Hearne couldn’t field to give the Hokies runners at first and second with one out. Another fielder’s choice put out Ceballos, but placed Zagunis 90 feet from plating the go-ahead run. With two outs, Tom Stoffel hit into the inning’s third fielder’s choice, but the ball came out of second baseman Cavan Biggio’s glove as he went to make the tag allowing all runners to advance safely including Zagunis, who sprinted home for what proved to be the winning run.
In extras, Notre Dame had a runner on in every inning, but couldn’t advance them past second base. The Irish fall to 3-7 in one-run games this season and 2-3 in extra-inning affairs.
Hearne (1-2) suffered the loss despite hurling 8.1 innings of relief in place of starter Pat Connaughton. Hearne allowed nine hits and gave up two runs (one earned). He also struck out two and walked none to up his season total to 26 strikeouts compared to just six walks. He has the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio on the team (4.3) among eligible pitchers.
Making just his second start of the season, Connaughton looked as though he was still working through some rust as he gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits in 3.2 innings of work. He also walked four and struck out three.
At the dish, junior Blaise Lezynski upped his season average to .313 with a pair of hits, an RBI and two runs scored. Sophomore Ricky Sanchez also notched two hits, while senior Forrest Johnson and sophomore Lane Richards tallied Notre Dame’s other two RBI.
Virginia Tech pounded out 12 hits on the day and four players totaled multi-hit days. Reliever Luke Scherzer (2-1) got the win after going 2.2 innings and only giving up one hit, while Sean Kennedy (2) earned the save after allowing one hit in the 12th inning.
A sloppy game that featured three errors from each team began in the first as the Hokies plated one run with the help of an error and a mental error. Saige Jenco opened the contest with a walk, was moved over by a sac bunt and a grounder that turned into a throwing error on Richards and then scored as he went home on the throw after Johnson tried to toss out Zagunis as he stole second.
The Irish answered in the bottom half of the first with three runs that began with two outs. Ca. Biggio got the inning going by advancing to second after first baseman Brendon Hayden whiffed on a ball hit his way that ended up going down the right-field line. Lezynski made the Hokies pay as he took a 2-2 pitch to right center to easily score Biggio. Sanchez then stepped up and singled to left field to give Notre Dame runners at first and second. Next, a double steal attempt by the Irish went terribly wrong for the Hokies as a throwing error by Zagunis allowed Lezynski to come around from second to score and put Sanchez on third. Back-to-back walks by Phil Mosey and Johnson loaded the bases for Richards, who singled in Sanchez before Hayden tossed out Mosey at home to end the inning.
Virginia Tech tied the game at three as it scored one run each in the second and third innings. In the second Jenco hit an RBI single down the leftfield line, and in the third Stoffel singled to centerfield to bring home Zagunis.
In the sixth inning, an incredibly costly base-running error prevented the Irish from taking a two-run lead. After Lezynski was hit by a pitch with one out, Sanchez singled him over to third. A Conor Biggio walk loaded the bases for Johnson, who singled up the middle and appeared to give Notre Dame a 5-3 lead. However, after Lezynski scored, Sanchez missed third base as he was rounding for home and was instantly called out.
With new life, the Hokies tied the game the next inning as Zagunis singled to right field to bring in Ricky Surum, which ultimately forced the game to extra innings.
Notre Dame continues its nine-game home stand at 5:35 p.m. Tuesday when the Irish welcome in Illinois-Chicago (UIC) to Four Winds Field in South Bend. Fans can follow the game through WatchND video and audio and gametracker. Links for all three can be found on UND.com.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director