April 9, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame baseball team scored early and often as it capitalized on Michigan errors to dominate the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, 9-1, and run its non-conference win streak to eight games.
With the win, the Irish (12-20) snapped a four-game losing streak against the rival Wolverines as they secured their first win in Ann Arbor since a 9-3 victory 50 years ago on April 28, 1964 (As a side note, the two teams didn't play in Ann Arbor from 1978 to 2010). The eight-run cushion was the biggest margin of victory against Michigan (14-18-1) since a 9-1 win at a neutral site May 1, 2001.
"We were 1-4 against them since I've gotten here and the loss earlier in the year to them was tough so this was an important win for us tonight," said first baseman Blaise Lezynski. "We came out aggressive and took advantage of opportunities.
"It's important for us at this time of the season to keep trending upwards. In order to get back in this thing we need to string a few wins together. The win last night and the win tonight help. It just takes a few games to catch fire. This was a key win and was pivotal for us if we want to turn this season around."
The Notre Dame offense, which struggled for the season's first two months, has begun to awake as spring arrives. The Irish notched 11 hits Wednesday night against the Wolverines and have produced double-digit hits in six of their last seven games after totaling seven in the first 25 games of the year.
"Our approach was better today," said Lezynski. "In the past we have been struggling with runners in scoring position, but tonight we had some guys on early and guys came through for us. One breakthrough hit can really open the floodgates and we saw that tonight."
Producing big nights at the plate for Notre Dame were Lezynski, Zak Kutsulis and Lane Richards, who combined for nine of Notre Dame's 11 hits. Kutsulis entered the game hitting .338 in non-conference games and raised his average to .371 with four hits, including a big bases-clearing double in the third inning that broke open the game. Kutsulis has now tallied two four-hit games this season. Lezynski had another workman-like effort with three hits and two runs scored, while Richards tallied two hits, an RBI and a run scored. Kutsulis and Lezynski both notched two doubles in the game.
On the mound, junior Scott Kerrigan (2-1) won his second career game by going five innings and giving up just one unearned run on three hits. Following his departure, relievers Donnie Hissa (2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO) and Michael Hearne (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO) dominated the Wolverine bats. Hearne entered in the eighth and struck out the first four batters he faced before finishing the night with five K's.
Michigan finished the night with just four hits and had two more errors than base knocks with six miscues.
The Irish jumped on the board first with a run in the second inning, but could have scored more. Cavan Biggio and Kutsulis led off the frame with back-to-back singles and then Ryan Lidge reached first base safely as starting pitcher Ben Ballantine mishandled a sacrifice attempt. Robert Youngdahl came up to try and drive home a run but unfortunately hit into a 4-6-3 double play that brought home Biggio but quickly put two outs on the board. Richards popped up to end the inning with Kutsulis standing on third.
Notre Dame had a huge inning in the top of the third as Kutsulis came through with a monster two-out three-RBI double to move the score to 4-0. With two outs, Lezynski got the Irish going with a double down the left-field line. Ballantine then issued walks to Fiala and Ca. Biggio on eight straight pitches. That set up Kutsulis, who took a 3-1 pitch and bashed it against the right-field wall for his sixth, seventh and eighth two-out RBI of the season.
An absolutely bizarre defensive inning for the Wolverines led to two more Irish runs. After Lezynski reached on a lead-off walk, Fiala and Ca. Biggio both advanced to first on Michigan errors. Fiala reached on a fielding error on shortstop Travis Maezes, while Biggio reached on a throwing error on third baseman Jacob Cronenworth on a sac bunt attempt. On the latter play, Lezynski rounded third and headed for home and looked to be out but catcher Harrison Wenson dropped the ball on the tag to allow Lezynski to cross the dish safely. On the next play, Kutsulis brought home Fiala on a double play to up the Notre Dame lead to 6-1.
After holding the Irish scoreless and only allowing two hits in 5.2 innings of work March 1 in a 4-2 Michigan victory in Cary, N.C., at the USA Baseball-Irish Classic, Ballantine lasted only 2.2 innings this time around as he gave up four runs on five hits and two walks on 49 pitches. Two of the hits were of the extra-base variety, including two in the third inning that led to three Notre Dame runs.
The Irish wrapped up their scoring in the eighth inning as they plated three more runs. Kutsulis led off the inning with a single and was eventually brought home by a Richards double off the left-field wall. An error on left fielder Carmen Benedetti kept the Irish alive and plated Richards, while a Hudgins double down the left-field line scored Bull to push the Notre Dame lead to 9-1.
Notre Dame returns to Atlantic Coast Conference action this weekend when it welcomes Boston College to Cougar Stadium in Chicago, Ill. The three-game series gets underway at 7:05 p.m. (CT) Friday. Complete information on the weekend will be released Thursday.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director