May 14, 2014
ACC Series 10: Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh: 22-27, 11-16 ACC (42-17, 18-6 BIG EAST In 2013)
Weather Report (as of Wednesday, May 14):
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - On the heels of a thrilling home series win over then-No. 22 Clemson, the University of Notre Dame baseball team closes out its 2014 season on graduation weekend with a three-game home series against former BIG EAST rival and current Atlantic Coast Conference foe Pittsburgh at Frank Eck Stadium.
The Irish (19-31, 6-21 ACC) enter the Pitt series after the best ACC weekend of their season where they knocked off the ranked Clemson Tigers twice - including an impressive 11-3 victory Sunday - to claim their second conference series victory of the season in addition to winning the first series played on the new state-of-the-art FieldTurf that was installed recently on Jake Kline Field at Frank Eck Stadium.
Notre Dame made the most of its first true home series of the season as it earned a gritty 2-1 victory Friday night before bouncing back from its seventh shutout of the season (8-0) Saturday to blast Clemson Sunday. The highlight of the 11-3 offensive showcase was a four-run fifth inning where juniors Phil Mosey and Robert Youngdahl and freshman Cavan Biggio all cracked homers.
For Youngdahl, Sunday (4-for-5, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) put the finishing touches on an impressive turnaround last half of the season for the Iowa Western transfer from New Brighton, Minn. After starting off his Irish career with 10 hits in his first seven games (.370 avg.), Youngdahl went into a tough slump that saw his average dip to .169 over the next 18 contests.
However, since April 4 (23 games) he has hit .288 with seven doubles and three triples (.488 SLG%) to up his average to .227. Youngdahl is tied for third in the ACC with four triples on the year and leads the Irish in homers (3) and three RBI games (3) in addition to triples. He is also tied for third on the team with nine multi-hit outings.
Biggio has also shown great improvement as of late. After hitting a season-low average of .228 on March 30, the Houston, Texas native is batting .283 with 15 hits, five doubles, seven RBI, six walks and three sac flies since. He is tied for first in the ACC (8th in DI) in sac flies for the year with eight.
On the mound, junior Scott Kerrigan has been absolutely splendid since his reemergence in the lineup (March 22) as he sports a 1.03 ERA (3-0) in a team-best 52.2 innings of work. During that span, the Saugus, Calif., native has allowed just six earned runs and is holding opposing bats to just a .198 average. Kerrigan's season has put him in elite company among some dominating ACC arms as he is fifth in the league in ERA (1.77).
Heading into this weekend, the Irish are looking to play spoiler as the Panthers sit in a tie for 10th place in the ACC with NC State. Only 10 teams make next weekend's ACC Tournament and an Irish series win would probably spell the end of Pitt's season.
Pittsburgh (22-27, 11-16 ACC) enters the series after getting swept at home by Maryland last weekend (21-1, 5-1, 6-4). The Panthers sport a .238 team batting average and a 4.07 team ERA. In ACC play, those numbers are .227 and 4.46. At the plate senior Casey Roche leads the team in average (.275) while senior Stephen Vranka paces the squad in doubles (13), walks (31) and slugging percentage (.411).
The Panthers will send RHP T.J. (2-5, 3.02 ERA) to the mound Friday and RHP Matt Wotherspoon (5-5, 4.71 ERA) to the bump Saturday to faceoff against RHP Pat Connaughton (2-5, 4.42 ERA) and LHP Michael Hearne (4-6, 2.77 ERA).
Connaughton picked up the unusual win last Friday night, as he looked dominant at times in going eight innings and allowed just one run on three hits. However, he also walked eight, had three wild pitches and no strikeouts in the 2-1 Irish victory.
After going seven innings in an outing just once in the first 26 appearances of his career, the Arlington, Mass., native has been an innings eater the second half of this season as he has gone at least 6.2 innings in his last five appearances including a complete-game win against Boston College and two-consecutive eight-inning performances at Maryland and versus the Tigers.
Long-time rivals in the BIG EAST, both schools are in their first year in the ACC this season. Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 32-18, but was swept at Pitt last year by scores of 4-0, 4-2, 12-3.
Game one and two of the three-game set are slated to get underway at 5:35 p.m. Thursday and Friday with Saturday's season-finale beginning at 1:05 p.m.
Notre Dame's three seniors (Fitzgerald, Hissa and Johnson) will be honored in a pre-game ceremony around 5:15 p.m. Friday.
Thursday is Military Appreciation Day and all veterans get in free to the game. Tickets for other fans are available and are $5 for adults and $3 for youth and seniors. Notre Dame faculty, staff and students get in free with their ID.
Fans that can't make the series can watch all three games online for free through WatchND. Gametracker will also be up and running.
For the latest news and promotions surrounding Notre Dame baseball, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball) and Twitter (@NDBaseball).
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director