May 7, 2017
By Michael Scholl
NOTRE DAME, Indiana -- The Notre Dame Baseball team had second-ranked Louisville on the ropes but dropped the final game of an ACC series to the Cardinals, 9-4, on Sunday afternoon.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 4-1 lead after two innings and carried a 4-3 lead into the seventh. The Cardinals led by just a run entering the ninth. It marked just the second time this season Notre Dame lost a game in which it led after six innings.
Brandon Bielak started and went five innings for the Irish, allowing three runs, just two earned, while striking out seven Cardinals. Peter Solomon worked an inning of relief, allowing one run. Sean Guenther took the loss, giving up five earned in 2.2 innings.
At the plate, Matt Vierling continued to pace the Irish, going 2-for-3 with a double, triple, walk, RBI and run scored. Jake Johnson was 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and run. Eric Gilgenbach, starting in right field, went 3-for-3 with a double and run.
The Irish took their first lead of the series in the first inning. Johnson sparked the rally with a one-out single to right center. He then stole second during a seven-pitch at-bat with Vierling to move into scoring position before Vierling drove a double to the wall in left, scoring Johnson. After Lidge went down on strikes, Daily dumped a single into left to score Vierling and make it 2-0. After Daily got Notre Dame's second stolen base of the inning, Jung hit a looper to the second baseman for the final out.
Louisville immediately responded. Devin Mann and Colin Lyman started with consecutive singles before a sacrifice bunt by Josh Stowers put runners on second and third with one out. Bielak uncorked a wild pitch to allow the run to score, but then snared a line drive back up the middle from Zeke Pinkham and doubled Lyman off at third to preserve the Irish lead.
It was Notre Dame's turn to respond in the bottom of the second, as the Irish built the lead by taking advantage of some Louisville miscues. Gilgenbach led off with a single to left before Jake Singer went down on strikes. Jake Shepski hit a chopper to second, but the flip by the second baseman was off the mark and everyone was safe. Louisville starter Nick Bennett then tried to pick Shepski off first, but the throw went up the right field line, allowing Gilgenbach to score and Shepski to move up to third. After Nick Podkul was hit by a pitch, Johnson dumped a single into right to score Shepski. Louisville went to the bullpen, bringing in Jake Sparger to face Vierling. The Irish centerfielder hit into a double play to end the frame with Notre Dame up 4-1.
The Cardinals got another run back in the fourth. Colby Fitch led off with a single before Mann went down swinging. Lyman reached on a fielding error by Podkul before Stowers lined out for the second out of the frame. A wild pitch put runners on second and third before Pinkham and Logan Taylor earned back-to-back walks, making it 4-2. Bielak got Devin Hariston to fly out to end the frame.
Louisville continued to chip away in the fifth. Brendan McKay led off with a double to the right-field corner. Drew Ellis followed with a chopper up the middle that deflected off Bielak's glove for an infield single, with McKay advancing to third. Fitch did his job, sending a fly ball to left to score the run. Bielak sat Mann down looking before Lyman went down swinging to keep the Irish leading, 4-3.
Louisville came back to take the lead in the seventh. Hariston doubled to center to start the inning, causing Mik Aoki to bring Guenther in on relief of Solomon. Guenther walked McKay before Ellis delivered a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up. Fitch hit a ball up the middle that ricocheted off the mound and just past a diving Daily to score McKay and Harison. Guenther buckled down to strike out Mann and Lyman to send the game to the stretch with Louisville leading, 5-4.
Notre Dame had a mini-rally with two outs but couldn't manage to tie the game. Johnson doubled down the right field line with two down before Vierling walked on four pitches. Unfortunately, Lidge grounded out to second to end the frame and Louisville took a 5-4 lead to the 8th.
McKay delivered the final blow in the ninth, hitting a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole to make it 7-4 Louisville. The Cardinals added two more to provide the final margin of 9-4.
The Irish break for final exams during the week before embarking on a three-game non-conference series with Austin Peay May 12-14 at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish will celebrate their senior class on Saturday, May 13.
All three games can be seen on ACC Network Extra and heard on WatchND and 103.1 FM.
Michael Scholl joined Fighting Irish Media in August 2016, coordinating communications for the baseball program and assisting with the football team at his alma mater. The South Bend native earned a degree in political science from the College of Arts & Letters in 2009 before going on to work in athletics communications at Providence College,