April 16, 2014
TOLEDO, Ohio - The University of Notre Dame baseball team plated two runs in the top of the ninth inning to regain the momentum from the Toledo Rockets and then held on for a 4-3 road victory Wednesday night at Mercy Field.
Leading 2-0 and seemingly in control of the game after an absolute gem from starting pitcher Scott Kerrigan, Notre Dame turned to the bullpen to get the final six outs of the game. However, the eighth inning turned disastrous for the Irish as relief pitcher Nick McCarty loaded the bases with one out on three singles before being removed for senior Donnie Hissa. The Iron River, Wis., native got a big strikeout to record the inning’s second out, but then gave up a two-run single to Ryan Callahan that tied the score at two. Looking to avoid more trouble, Hissa notched his second strikeout of the inning to get out of a jam where two runners were in scoring position.
Having just watched its lead evaporate, the Notre Dame offense wasted no time in getting back out in front. Leadoff hitter Ryan Lidge singled to open the ninth and then pinch runner Kyle Richardson was advanced to third base on a monster double off the wall from junior Robert Youngdahl. With no outs, sophomore Lane Richards put the Irish back in front as he grounded out to the shortstop to score Richardson. Junior Conor Biggio followed suit with a ground out to second base to score Youngdahl and push the Notre Dame lead to 4-2 entering the home half of the ninth.
The Rockets wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, as they scored one run on a two-out single by pinch hitter Jacob North and had the game-tying run on third and the game-winning run at the plate when a ground out right back to Hissa (1-2) ended the contest and gave the Irish the thrilling road victory.
With the win, the Irish have won nine non-conference games in a row. They improve to 12-6 in non-ACC affairs this year with four of the defeats coming by two runs or less including three by a single run.
Despite the win, the two Toledo runs in the eighth spoiled a pitching dandy that Kerrigan put on for the crowd of 342. Kerrigan, who had hurled just 42 pitches through five innings, ended the day after seven innings and just 60 pitches. He allowed only three hits and no runs while striking out four and not issuing a walk, hurling a wild pitch or hitting a batter. He induced eight fly outs and eight ground outs.
Kerrigan’s dominating performance continued an impressive run by Notre Dame starting pitching. Over the last six games, Notre Dame starters have pitched 47 innings and given up just five runs (three earned) for a miniscule 0.58 ERA.
Kerrigan himself has a remarkable 0.71 ERA in his last five appearances after starting off the year with a 13.50 ERA in 3.1 innings of work. He has started three games over the last three weeks, gone 25.1 innings and given up just three runs (two earned) while holding batters to a .157 average.
The Notre Dame bats ended the game with four runs on nine hits. The Irish started off the contest with a single in each of the first six innings, but failed to capitalize in all but two of the frames, leaving a runner on base six times. For the night, Notre Dame recorded a hit in eight of the nine innings.
Co. Biggio had a productive day in the leadoff spot for the Irish as he had the game-winning RBI, two walks and a run scored. Zak Kutsulis and Lidge notched multi-hit days for the Irish.
Notre Dame jumped on top of the Rockets in the third inning as Blaise Lezynski dropped in a single to right center that brought home Richards from second base. The RBI was Lezynski’s team-leading 23rd of the season and 11th with two outs. Richards reached base after getting plucked in the back by a Kyle Slack pitch and advancing to second on a Co. Biggio sac bunt.
The Irish upped its lead to 2-0 in the fifth on a clutch two-out infield single from freshman Kyle Fiala. The rip to second base brought home Co. Biggio from third after the Houston, Texas native had reached base on a walk and later advanced to third on a stolen base and a fly out.
Notre Dame (15-21, 3-15 ACC) gets back to Atlantic Coast Conference action this weekend with a three-game set at nationally-ranked Miami (26-12, 14-4 ACC). The Hurricanes, who are ranked in the top 20 in all five major polls, welcome the Irish in for three 7 p.m. games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Saturday and Sunday contests will be broadcast on ESPN3, while the series finale will be part of ESPNU’s ACC Monday package. The Irish are one of just six ACC teams that will appear on the ESPNU Monday game this season. Miami will enter the weekend as one of the hottest teams in the country as it sports the nation’s longest winning streak at 13 games. The Irish have won three games in a row and five of their last six and look to continue the momentum built from last weekend’s ACC series win over Boston College.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director