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Irish Beat Virginia Tech 2-1 For First ACC Win

March 22, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Behind senior RHP Sean Fitzgerald’s first career complete game,
the University of Notre Dame baseball team earned its first Atlantic Coast
Conference win in school history with a 2-1 victory over former BIG EAST foe
Virginia Tech Friday night at Four Winds Field in downtown South Bend.

Making his sixth appearance of the season, Fitzgerald (3-1) needed 119 pitches to
rack up his fifth quality start as he shut down the Hokies for much of the night as
he gave up just one run on six hits. He also walked one and struck out three. The
lone run and two of the six hits came in the ninth inning.

“I was trying to get deeper in the game today,” said Fitzgerald. “I had been going
six or seven innings (in previous starts). I took the focus away from trying to get
strikeouts and turned to trying to get more soft contact hits and fly balls.”

“Fitz was able to get ahead of hitters tonight,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “He got
his slider going and used his change up when he needed to. I think the big thing was
that he was in the strike zone and he got those guys in swing mode and did a really
good job of locating and mixing up his pitches when necessary.”

A native of McLean, Va., Fitzgerald helped the Irish earn their first ACC win, over
a Virginia school as a matter of fact, after a 0-6 start.

“Getting this win tonight was awesome,” said Fitzgerald. “I grew up watching the
ACC. It’s a very nice feeling and a weight off our shoulders to break the ice and
get that first conference win.

“It was a big win for us,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “We needed a big effort from
Fitz and he gave it to us. You don’t want to go to 0-7 (in ACC play). That’s a
pretty big hole. Not to say 1-6 isn’t a hole, but it seems more manageable.
Hopefully we sort of broke the dam so to speak and a few more will come.”

With Fitzgerald dealing, the Irish offense didn’t need to do much to support their
pitcher.

The Irish used back-to-back singles to put themselves in position to plate the
game’s first run in the fifth. With runners at first and second, junior Conor Biggio
hit a hard grounder up the middle that forced out Kyle Richardson at second, but
easily scored Lane Richards from third to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead.

Just one inning later, the Notre Dame offense struck again as junior Blaise Lezynski
singled to lead off the inning, advanced to third on a throwing error and then snuck
home on a wild pitch from Hokie starter Brad Markey (2-3) to give the Irish a 2-0
lead.

That would be all Fitzgerald needed as he continuously got ahead in the count and
sat the Hokies down in order in innings immediately following an Irish run.

“When you see your team go ahead as a pitcher you need a shutdown inning after they
score,” said Fitzgerald. “That was my main focus today … to get that first out after
we score and go from there.”

After getting into a bit of trouble in the ninth with Virginia Tech scoring a run on
a single through the right side by Alex Perez, Fitzgerald forced two consecutive fly
outs and a ground out to finish off the complete game.

The performance was the first Irish complete game since graduate Adam Norton blanked
Seton Hall, 5-0, in last year’s BIG EAST Tournament.

At the plate, Co. Biggio and Kyle Fiala offered a solid one-two punch at the top of
the lineup. Biggio had a hit, two walks and the game’s first RBI, while Fiala had a
hit and walk. The two combined for all three Irish walks and two of the team’s six
hits. Fiala extended his hit streak to 12 games and his on-base streak to 16
contests.

As has been the M.O. for much of Aoki’s career, nine of Notre Dame’s 20 games this
year have been decided by one run with the Irish improving their mark to 3-6 on the
season.

The Irish improved their mark against the Hokies to 9-6 all-time and have won three
in a row.

Notre Dame and Virginia Tech will continue their series at 4:30 p.m. Saturday as
they head to Westfield, Ind., and Grand Park. The final two games of the series will
take place just a few miles outside Indianapolis.


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