May 11, 2016
By Ben Auwaerter
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Runs were certainly at a premium Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium, as 1,001 fans were treated to a pair of pitchers’ duels between the University of Notre Dame baseball team and No. 11 LSU. The Tigers completed the series sweep with a 1-0 win in 11 innings, followed by a 3-2 victory in seven frames.
In game one, a contest that was originally scheduled for seven innings was forced to play four more before a Tiger home run in the top of the 11th gave the visiting team the win.
The night cap saw six more shutout innings before the seventh and deciding frame witnessed five runs cross the plate.
The series marked the return of former Irish head coach and current LSU skipper Paul Mainieri to Frank Eck Stadium. Mainieri, who coached at Notre Dame from 1995-2006, led the Irish to its last College World Series appearance in 2002 and won over 530 games during his time under the Golden Dome. At LSU, he claimed the 2009 College World Series title to highlight an impressive 10-year career that doesn’t appear to be coming to an end anytime soon.
Notre Dame (26-22) travels to Chapel Hill, North Carolina this weekend to face the North Carolina Tar Heels in a crucial three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series. Game times are set for 7:00 p.m. ET Friday, 6:00 p.m. ET Saturday and 7:00 p.m. ET Monday. Monday’s game will be broadcast live on ESPNU, while the other two contests are set for ESPN3 in addition to WatchND’s audio broadcast.
GAME 1: LSU 1, Notre Dame 0
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Irish and the Tigers entered extra innings with a rare scoreless tie. After three extra frames, LSU scored the game’s only run in the top of the 11th inning on a solo homer by Jake Fraley to lead off the inning.
Notre Dame could not respond in the bottom of the inning, as senior Kyle Richardson was called out at second base on a steal attempt after a single with two outs.
The matchup was marked by stellar pitching. Irish freshman Connor Hock looked impressive in his first career start, giving the Irish three innings of scoreless baseball to begin the game and lower his season ERA to 0.96. He was followed by sophomores Charlie Vorsheck and Brad Bass, who combined to throw five shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk between them.
Notre Dame pitching held the Tigers without a hit for 6.1 innings between the fourth and the 11th.
LSU pitching was just as impressive, as John Valek III (4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 SO), Parker Bugg (1.2 IP, 1 SO), Jared Poche’ (0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 SO), Russell Reynolds (1.1 IP), Austin Bain (2.0 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 SO) and Hunter Newman (1.0 IP, 1 H) combined for the shutout victory.
In the bottom of the seventh, Notre Dame nearly snagged a walk-off win. Junior Ryan Lidge led the inning off with a walk. Richardson then bunted him over to second base. After LSU recorded one out, freshman Nick Podkul knocked a single to move Lidge over to third. The Tigers escaped the jam by forcing a ground out to send the game to extra innings.
LSU had a chance to claim the lead in the top of the ninth. The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs and sent in a pinch hitter, Brennan Breaux, to try and bring a run home. However, Notre Dame reliever Evy Rubiel tallied a pair of clutch strikeouts, including one of Breaux, to prevent any runners from scoring.
In the bottom half of the inning, Notre Dame also had a scoring opportunity, but left the bases loaded for the second time in extras to set up Fraley’s homer.
For the game, the Irish stranded 12 runners compared to eight for LSU.
Senior Lane Richards and Richardson both turned in two-hit games for Notre Dame. Junior Cavan Biggio posted a hit and two walks. Senior Joey Cresta tossed a scoreless inning in relief after Ruibal gave up the solo homer in the 11th.
GAME 2: LSU 3, Notre Dame 2
Until the final inning, the pitching in the second game mirrored that of the first. In the seventh frame, both offenses came to life. LSU tallied three runs to open up the scoring and take the lead. Notre Dame attempted to rally, but fell one run short in a 3-2 loss.
Sophomore Sean Guenther started the second game for the Irish. The lefty tossed 2.1 scoreless innings before being removed.
In the top of the sixth inning, LSU had one of the better scoring opportunities of the day after moving a man to second base with one out. Up stepped Fraley, who slashed a single to center field that allowed the baserunner to attempt to score. Richardson, however, used his cannon arm to put a stop to that plan by throwing out the runner with a perfect dart to home plate.
In the seventh, the Tigers finally put an end to the scoreless innings, as they plated three runs on two hit by pitch, two wild pitches, three walks and a two-run single.
Notre Dame attempted to mount a comeback in the bottom half. With one out, freshman Cole Daily recorded a walk. Lidge followed him with a line-drive single to right field before Biggio drew a two-out walk to load the bases.
Podkul recorded the first Irish RBI of the doubleheader when he recorded a four-pitch walk. A passed ball then allowed another runner to cross home, reducing the Tiger’s lead to 3-2. LSU reliever Jesse Stallings managed to stop the rally right there though as he tallied the game-clinching strikeout with the winning run standing at second base.
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Ben Auwaerter is a freshman at Notre Dame and is from Lutherville, Maryland. He previously worked during the summer of 2014 with the Baltimore Orioles public relations office.