Notre Dame scores two in the ninth and four in the 10th to win 13-9.
March 12, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
BOONE, N.C. - The Irish like to save their best stuff against Appalachian State
until the ninth inning. Just nine days after a thrilling come-from-behind,
extra-inning victory over the Mountaineers, 4-3, the University of Notre Dame
baseball team did it again Tuesday night in Boone, N.C., in a game that was eerily
similar to the one barely a week earlier in Cary, N.C. After scoring two runs in the
ninth to send the game to extras, the Irish blew the game open with four runs in the
10th to win, 13-9, in front of 681 fans at Smith Stadium.
Notre Dame entered the ninth trailing 9-7 after App State (4-12) exploded for five
runs in the sixth inning. With his team down to its last out with no runners on
base, freshman catcher Ryan Lidge didn't buckle under the pressure as he blasted a
double to left center to keep the Irish alive. Pinch hitter Ryan Bull stepped into
the box and drew a walk to give the Irish pinch runners (Jack Flaherty and Conor
Biggio) at first and third after a passed ball moved Flaherty up a base. One of the
heroes in the first victory against Appalachian State, sophomore Zak Kutsulis took
the first pitch he saw and knocked a two-run double to left field to tie the game up
after Biggio just beat out the throw at home plate by turning on the jets as he
sprinted around the bases from first.
In extras, the Irish were again down to two outs, but this time had runners at
second and third. Sophomore Lane Richards, who has been swinging a steady bat ever
since the Irish arrived in North Carolina almost two weeks ago, stepped up and
cracked a triple over the heads of a moved in outfield to score two runs and give
Notre Dame an 11-9 lead. Looking to make the lead insurmountable, catcher Forrest
Johnson kept the run going by absolutely crushing the first pitch he saw from closer
Robert Whaley (0-1) over the left center field fence for his first career home run.
"I got behind in the count but I was trying to put good contact on it and he tossed
me a pitch up and I jumped on it," said Richards. "I was pretty lucky they brought
the centerfielder in to prevent a bloop hit, but I got it over his head and I'm so
happy right now with this win.
"It (the Irish competitiveness) comes from all the preparation in the fall with
coach Aoki and our strength and conditioning coach Craig Cheek. They really push us
to compete a lot. So we've been doing it all year and that's what it came down to
Carrying a four-run lead into the bottom half of the 10th inning, junior Cristian
Torres earned the second win of his career (both against Appalachian State) by
striking out the side to give the Irish another thrilling victory over the
"I think we really struggled as a pitching staff to change the momentum, which has
unfortunately been a bit of a common theme this season in that we can't seem to get
a guy in that sort of rights the ship," said Aoki. "We had that with Michael Hearne
against Youngstown, but tonight it seemed to sort of snowball on us. I thought
Donnie (Hissa) coming out clean in his second inning was huge as well as Cristian
(Torres) coming up clean throughout. You can tell how much better the team plays
simply because one guy is pitching better. Maybe it's a little bit too much of a
burden for some of these young players, but the team sort of feeds off the guy on
the bump - defensively and offensively. But having said that I was proud of the way
these guys came back and competed and overcame some adversity to win."
Notre Dame (6-9) notched season highs in at-bats (43), runs (13), hits (15), RBI
(12), total bases (29), walks (8) while tying season highs in home runs (2),
doubles (4) and triples (2). The Irish also improved to 11-12-1 (2-1 this season) in
extra innings under head coach Mik Aoki.
In the longest game of the season for Notre Dame (3:31), the Irish used six pitchers
to pick up the win.
At the plate, junior Robert Youngdahl and Johnson cracked homers and a whopping six
Notre Dame players recorded two RBI. Junior Blaise Lezynski continued his torrid
streak with a 3-for-4 day against the Mountaineers. The Newtown, Pa., native added
two RBI, a walk and run scored. Ten different players scored runs on the evening,
including three from freshman Kyle Fiala and two from sophomore Ricky Sanchez. Also
scoring a run in his first career game was sophomore Jack Flaherty.
Despite the fireworks of the last two innings, the first eight offered plenty of
their own. Four lead changes occurred in the first six innings as the two teams put
up a combined 15 runs. To get to 9-7 in the top of the ninth, let's take a look back
at how we got there.
The Irish struck first as they capitalized on the unsteady pitching of Mountaineer
starter Blake Burkett. Burkett entered the game with an ERA of 14.54 and a 0-2
record and didn't get off to a good start as he gave up a single, hit a batter and
walked three before being lifted for reliever Dallas DeVrieze.
Kutsulis led off the game with a single and Fiala followed that up by barely getting
nicked to give Notre Dame runners on first and second with no outs. A ground out
advanced the runners and a Lezynski sac fly easily scored Kutsulis. After
back-to-back walks from Sanchez and Youngdahl loaded the bases, a passed ball by
catcher Ozzy Gonzalez allowed Fiala to scurry home. Another walk issued to Richards
loaded the bases and led to Burkett's removal from the contest. DeVrieze kept more
runs from crossing the dish by inducing a groundout to end the threat.
Starter Michael Hearne entered the game on a pitch count and went three innings,
giving up two hits and two walks while striking out four. Hearne left as the pitcher
of record, but a tough fourth inning from the Irish bullpen allowed the Mountaineers
to bring four across home plate and take their first lead of the game.
Freshman Ryan Smoyer started the inning and gave up a single through the right side
before forcing the Mountaineers into back-to-back flyouts. However, right fielder
Preston Troutman jumpstarted what would become a big inning for ASU by doubling to
right center to plate Gonzalez and move the score to 2-1. After Smoyer issued a
walk, junior RHP Matt Ternowchek entered to try and minimize the damage.
Unfortunately for the Irish, Tyler Zupcic doubled to left center to plate Troutman
and tie the game at two. An intentional walk to Dillon Dobson brought up Jaylin
Davis. Davis gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the game with a two-run
single to right field. That ended the night for Ternowcheck as freshman Jim Orwick
made his 11th appearance of the season and struck out Alex Leach to end the inning.
Appalachian State entered the game with five two-out RBI for the season and produced
four in the fourth inning alone.
Notre Dame answered with a monster inning of its own in the top of the fifth as the
Irish scored four to reclaim the lead, 6-4. After Fiala and Lezynski hit singles to
put runners at second and third, Sanchez maked his presence known with a monster
triple to left centerfield to tie the game at four. Youngdahl came up next and
notched his second homer of the season, a two-run rocket that just cleared the right
field fence over a leaping Preston Troutman.
The back-and-forth game continued as Appalachian State scored five in sixth inning
to pull ahead 9-6. Orwick opened the inning by hitting and walking two batters
before being removed by senior RHP Donnie Hissa. The Iron River, Wis., native struck
out one batter before the wheels came off in the form of a bases loaded walk,
back-to-back singles that scored three and a sac fly that plated another run. The
inning finally ended with a deep fly out to centerfield.
Hissa got back on track in the seventh with a 1-2-3 inning and Torres put together a
clean slate in the eighth to give the Irish some confidence as they entered a
critical eighth inning down by three runs. The visitors got a run back in the eighth
as Lezynski hit an absolute laser down the left field line to bring Fiala around
from first and trim the lead to 9-7, which set up the ninth-inning heroics.