March 31, 2014
Game 27: Valparaiso
Valparaiso: 9-11, 1-2 Horizon (32-28, 13-11 Horizon In 2013)
Projected Pitching Matchups:
Live Game Coverage:
Weather Report (as of Monday, March 31):
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the second time in less than a week, the University of Notre Dame baseball program gets set for a mid-week contest against the Valparaiso Crusaders as the two programs will play at 8:05 p.m. (ET) Tuesday at Four Winds Field in South Bend.
Last Wednesday Valpo made the hour drive to South Bend and held its own against the Irish as the Crusaders trailed 2-1 through the fifth inning behind the pitching of RHP Ellis Foreman. The sophomore went seven innings and gave up four runs on nine hits.
However, the Irish bats busted through in the later innings as sophomore Zak Kutsulis hit a double down the right field line to put Notre Dame up 3-1 in the sixth inning and then junior Mac Hudgins put down a spectacular bunt in the seventh that scored pinch runner Jack Flaherty and extended the Irish cushion to 4-1.
Notre Dame (9-17, 1-11 ACC) pitching gave up one run on five hits and was led by sophomore Nick McCarty, who earned his first win of the year after several hard-luck losses.
Valpo has had an almost impossible time getting in games recently as nine of its last 15 contests have been cancelled due to weather. On Sunday, the Crusaders lost at Butler, 5-3.
In Tuesday night's game, Foreman will earn the start again for the Crusaders and will be opposed by junior Scott Kerrigan (0-1), who is making his first start since Feb. 23 against Santa Clara. The Saugus, Calif., native returned this season after having right labrum surgery a year ago. He started to early games to open the 2014 campaign, but struggled with his command as he gave up 10 runs (five earned) on seven hits in 3.1 innings of work. He also walked three, had two wild pitches, three hit batsmen and one throwing error.
After sitting out a month, Kerrigan has looked much improved in his last two relief appearances, as he has lowered his ERA from 13.50 to 5.06. Last Saturday against Virginia Tech, he went 5.2 innings in relief and only gave up one hit and two walks while striking out five. On Sunday against Wake Forest, he went 1.2 innings and allowed a run on three hits.
"Scott has done an excellent job of battling back into his role as he has pitched really well of late," said head coach Mik Aoki. "He looked good in the first game Sunday against Wake Forest. I thought he pitched really well against Virginia Tech last week and has also looked good recently in our inter-squad scrimmages.
"I think in baseball, momentum sort of begins and ends with the guy on the mound and I thought Nick (McCarty) did a good job last week of staying in the strike zone and making them earn their way on base. If we are able to do that tomorrow night I think we will be in a good place."
The Irish are coming off another competitive but incredibly tough weekend in the Atlantic Coast Conference, this time against Wake Forest. Notre Dame was swept for the third time this year in a three-game series, but not before the Irish lost two more close contests. Friday night they lost their third 1-0 ACC game of the season before dropping Sunday's finale, 7-5. Five of Notre Dame's 11 ACC losses are by one run and two others are by two runs. For the year, the Irish are 3-8 in one-run games and 0-3 in two-run games to give them a 3-11 record in contests decided by two runs or less. Only five of Notre Dame's 17 losses have been by four runs or more with two coming in the opening series of the year at then-No. 24 Florida Atlantic. The other three have come against then-No. 6 NC State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in ACC play.
Fans can follow Tuesday's game against Valparaiso through WatchND's live video stream or on the radio at Pulse FM (92.1 & 96.9) with Chuck Freeby on the call. Links for WatchND as well as gametracker can be found on UND.com.
AROUND THE BASES
Lezynski Continues To Swing Hot Bat
Junior Blaise Lezynski turned in another impressive weekend at the plate against Wake Forest as he improved on his team leading average. After going 0-for-4 Friday, the Newtown, Pa., native was lights out in the Sunday doubleheader as he went 6-for-9 with 3 RBI to up his season average to .330. In addition to average, he leads the Irish in hits (32), RBI (17), and hit by pitch (5) and is tied for first in doubles (6) and runs scored (12). Lezynski has recorded hits in 22 of the team's 27 games and also has seven multi-hit games.
"Blaise has been good all year to be honest," said Aoki. "I think the numbers bear it out. Without any question, he has been our most consistent player. He's done a really good job of buying into the approach that we have been talking to the team about. If you really key in on him, he is hitting balls all over the field, hitting with two strikes, hitting with plus counts and disadvantaged counts. After a couple of years of not having the results he wanted he has been able to buy in this year and has adjusted his mental approach and it's starting to match up with a guy that is physically very talented."
Fitzgerald In Command
At the top of the rotation for the Irish is senior Sean Fitzgerald, who has gotten off to a fantastic start in 2014. The McLean, Va., native sports a 3-2 record with a 2.05 ERA in a team-high 48.1 innings of work. In addition, opponents are hitting a miniscule .194 against him and he has tallied a team-high 33 strikeouts.
Fitzgerald has produced quality starts in six of his seven appearances including a streak of six in a row. He also hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start all year. If the season-opening start against Florida Atlantic is removed, Fitzgerald would have a 1.87 ERA, six quality starts and 27 strikeouts as opposed to nine walks.
Home Away From Home
Over the last two weeks, Notre Dame has become fully immersed in its home away from home schedule as FieldTurf installation continues at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish have played one game at Chicago State, two at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and five others at Four Winds Field in South Bend. In the upcoming weeks, the Irish will also play at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., and Homer Stryker Field in Kalamazoo, Mich.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Director