May 9, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame baseball team plated two runs in the third inning and junior RHP Pat Connaughton did the rest with some help from senior closer Donnie Hissa as the Irish kicked off its first game on the new FieldTurf at Frank Eck Stadium with a 2-1 victory over the No. 22 Clemson Tigers that was seen nationally on ESPNU.
In the first game at the Eck since May 5, 2013, the Irish did their damage early and then held on for the rest of the contest with snazzy defense and timely pitching leading the way. The game-deciding inning came all the way back in the third. After a thrilling double play kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the top half of the inning, the Irish used that momentum to plate what proved to be the two winning runs in the bottom half of the frame. After Kevin DeFilippis was issued a walk with one out, Kyle Richardson cracked a monster triple to left center field on the first pitch he saw to push one run across the plate. Just two pitches later, freshman Cavan Biggio hit his ACC-leading eighth sac fly of the year to make the score 2-0.
Those two runs would be enough for Connaughton and his bullpen as the Arlington, Mass., native worked around walks and wild pitches with the help of some sterling Notre Dame defense to hold the ACC's top hitting team (.284 average) to just one run on three hits.
In addition to the bases loaded jam in the third inning, Connaughton worked around a double in the first, a double in the seventh, and three walks and two wild pitches in the eighth. The eighth inning gave the Tigers their loan run of the game as Garrett Boulware hit a sac fly to left field to score Tyler Slaton.
After a lead-off walk in the ninth, Connaughton was removed for Hissa. The 6-7 righty allowed a single to put runners on the corners with one out, but struck out the next two batters he faced to give the Irish the win.
"It was really neat to come out here in front of this crowd for the first time this year," said head coach Mik Aoki. "I thought our guys did a great job of coming out here and playing with some energy and certainly the field was a boost for them. They were excited to come out here and play.
"The thing I'm most proud of about these guys is that we have been in this type of game so many times this year and have had it go against us. We talk all the time about the past being the past and concentrating on the current pitch and it paid off for us tonight. It would have been really easy to be like `here we go again' when a couple things went wrong in the ninth and bring that defeatist attitude into those pitches, especially with Donnie (Hissa) having been on the mound for some of those tough finishes. But he made two huge pitches. Those two breaking balls he made to strike out the two guys were great breaking balls. And between Pat and Donnie we did it against statistically speaking the best offense in the ACC."
Connaughton (2-5) finished the outing with eight innings pitched and allowing three hits, eight walks, three wild pitches and one run in 108 pitches. Hissa picked up his team-leading third save of the season with a clean ninth inning.
Clemson left 10 guys on base to just five for the Irish. Neither team committed an error as both defenses made remarkable catch after remarkable catch throughout the night.
"I thought Kyle (Richardson) made some great catches in center and what's understated was Ryan (Bull) sticking with that ball he lost in the lights and making the catch," said Aoki. "That was a big moment. Phil (Mosey) also made a diving catch on that little liner towards no-man's land in the eighth and the double play we turned in the third with the bases loaded was critical. I thought Pat (Connaughton) fought himself a bit tonight, but he competed out there, made pitches when he needed to and received some help from our defense."
Senior catcher Forrest Johnson had the lone two-hit night for the Irish as he produced a pair of singles.
Clemson starting pitcher Matthew Crownover (6-5) suffered the loss after giving up two runs on six hits in seven innings of work.
The Irish have now won three games over ranked opponents this year as Friday night's victory is added to a 9-2 decision over then-No. 24 Florida Atlantic to open the year and a 7-4 win at then-No. 11 Miami a few weeks ago.
Notre Dame (18-30, 5-20 ACC) and the Tigers (30-20, 12-12 ACC) get back to action at 2:05 p.m. Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium. Fans can watch the game on WatchND's video broadcast with Chuck Freeby on the call or follow gametracker. Tickets are still available for Saturday's game. Adult tickets are $5 while youth and senior tickets are $3. Notre Dame students, faculty and staff are admitted free with a Notre Dame ID.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director