Demon Deacons take three from Irish
Matthew DeFranks | Sunday, March 30, 2014
Wake Forest used strong pitching Friday and hot bats Sunday to sweep Notre Dame in an ACC series this weekend.
The Demon Deacons (19-10, 8-4 ACC) won Friday’s game 1-0 before sweeping a doubleheader Sunday with 10-2 and 7-5 wins over the Irish (9-17, 1-11).
All three games were played at Four Winds Field after Saturday’s game was moved to Sunday morning because of weather concerns. The doubleheader was Notre Dame’s fifth twin bill of the season.
Game 1: Wake Forest 1, Notre Dame 0
Wake Forest rode a first-inning run and 8 1/3 shutout innings from senior right-hander Jack Fischer to a 1-0 win Friday night at Four Winds Field.
Irish senior right-hander Sean Fitzgerald (3-2) was the hard-luck loser after tossing seven innings, allowing just four hits and an unearned run. It was Fitzgerald’s sixth quality start in seven outings.
“To me, I think Friday night was kind of the cruelty of baseball,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said.
The Demon Deacons scored in the opening frame after a sacrifice fly from redshirt senior first baseman Matt Conway drove in redshirt junior left fielder Grant Shambley, who had walked and advanced on a failed pickoff attempt and a single.
Shambley’s run stood up for Wake Forest as Fischer (3-2) breezed through the Irish lineup, scattering five hits and walking one.
Notre Dame threatened in the ninth, putting runners on second and third with one out after singles by junior center fielder Mac Hudgins and freshman third baseman Kyle Fiala. Wake Forest redshirt sophomore right-hander Aaron Fossas intentionally walked Irish freshman second baseman Cavan Biggio to load the bases.
But sophomore left fielder Zak Kutsuils grounded into a game-ending double play to hand Notre Dame its ninth conference loss.
“That’s one of those things I feel badly for Zak grounding into that double play, but, at the same time, Zak’s a kid that runs well enough that he needs to hit it hard at somebody in order for that double play to be a possibility,” Aoki said. “He hit it well. He hit it unfortunately at the second baseman, and they were able to turn it.”
Fiala led the Irish in the boxscore by going 2-for-3 with a walk.
Game 2: Wake Forest 10, Notre Dame 2
Wake Forest’s bats exploded for 17 hits as the Demon Deacons roughed up Irish junior right-hander Pat Connaughton and cruised to a 10-2 victory in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday.
Connaughton (0-1) lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits and five walks. Connaughton struggled with his control, as 34 of his 73 pitches went for balls.
“If there’s an Achilles heel that he has, that’s what it is,” Aoki said. “It’s always been that way. Typically, as he gets more repetitions, he starts getting into the strike zone more a little bit. It does take him a little bit of time.
“It’s tough. As talented as he is, he’s competing against kids that are doing it 12 months of the year.”
Wake Forest scored in the first inning for the second straight game when senior lead-off man and center fielder Evan Stephens scored on an RBI single from Conway. Stephens reached on a throwing error by Fiala and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Shambley.
The Demon Deacons added two more in the second, aided by two Connaughton walks. After freshman second baseman Nate Mondou popped out to shortstop, Connaughton dealt eight straight balls and allowed a bunt single to load the bases with one out. Senior designated hitter Charlie Morgan drove in sophomore right fielder Joey Rodriguez and Stephens with a two-run single to left.
The Wake Forest offense scored seven runs in the middle three innings, hammering out 11 hits and sending 19 men to the plate.
Morgan led Wake Forest by going 4-for-5 with a career-high four RBI, while Stephens scored four runs. Eight of the nine Wake Forest starters recorded a hit.
Wake Forest redshirt junior left-hander John McLeod (4-1) earned the win by going seven innings and giving up five hits and an unearned run while striking out three.
Junior first baseman Blaise Lezynski was the lone bright spot for the Irish offense, going 3-for-4 and driving in a run with a third-inning single.
Game 3: Wake Forest 7, Notre Dame 5
Notre Dame scored in each of the first three innings, but a four-run fifth from Wake Forest doomed the Irish in a 7-5 loss Sunday afternoon.
Wake Forest jumped out to a first-inning lead again in Sunday’s second game when freshman third baseman Will Craig drove in Shambley with a sacrifice fly to center. Craig drove in Shambley again with a sacrifice fly to center in the third.
The Irish tied the game in the bottom of the first behind a Hudgins triple and an RBI double from Lezynski.
Notre Dame chased Wake Forest junior right-hander Connor Kaden in the third inning after he walked freshman catcher Ryan Lidge to load the bases with two outs. Kaden went 2 2/3 innings and gave up four runs, all earned, on six hits and two walks.
Wake Forest junior right-hander Matt Pirro walked Irish junior right fielder Robert Youngdahl to give Notre Dame a 4-2 lead. Pirro (2-1) earned the win for the Demon Deacons. Fossas picked up his second save of the weekend and his sixth of the season.
The Demon Deacons turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead with a four-run fifth inning, highlighted by Mondou’s pinch-hit three-run double. Wake Forest sent 10 batters to the plate and left the bases loaded when Morgan popped out to shortshop.
Irish sophomore left-hander Michael Hearne (1-3) gave up six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings in the loss.
“Their offensive approach just didn’t match up great with Mike but I thought Mike did a good job battling through it,” Aoki said. “We swung the bat, overall, better today but I think most of this just rests with some offensive problems. We just gotta keep working, gotta keep working at it.”
Lezynski continued his hot streak with an RBI single in the sixth that scored junior designated hitter Conor Biggio to trim the deficit to one run. Lezynski was 6-for-9 with three RBI in Sunday’s two games.
“I think without any question, he’s been absolutely, 100 percent our most consistent guy,” Aoki said. “I was happy to see him keep it going. He’s done a really good job buying into the approach we’re talking to them about.”
Notre Dame will face Valparaiso on Tuesday night at Four Winds Field. Junior right-hander Scott Kerrigan will start for the Irish, who topped the Crusaders 4-1 on Wednesday.