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Baseball

Notre Dame picks up two conference wins in first ACC play over spring break

| Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Notre Dame walked away from its nine-day road trip with a 3-4 record, as it had looked to turn around its slow start to the season.

The Irish (6-12, 2-3 ACC) opened things up in Clemson, South Carolina, where they took on the No. 8 Tigers from March 10 through March 12. In game one, Clemson (16-4, 5-1 ACC) was able to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, and despite Notre Dame’s best efforts — led by the bat of junior outfielder Jake Johnson — the Tigers held on to take the first game of the three-game series by a score of 4-1.

Irish junior outfielder Jake Johnson throws the ball toward the infield during Notre Dame's 9-5 win over UIC on March 22, 2016 at Frank Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish junior outfielder Jake Johnson throws the ball toward the infield during Notre Dame’s 9-5 win over UIC on March 22, 2016 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Clemson jumped out to an early lead once again in the second game, scoring four runs in the first inning alone and claiming a 5-2 lead by the third inning. The Irish would again rally, however, as senior infielder Kyle Fiala and sophomore infielder Nick Podkul each drove in two runs, but the team would come up short yet again, as Clemson took the second game by a one-run margin, 6-5.

In the series finale, the Irish saw their offense brought to a halt. Despite having chances to score — as sophomore outfielder and pitcher Matt Vierling tallied two doubles — the Irish were unable to tally any runs, ultimately losing 4-0 and giving the Tigers the sweep.

Notre Dame’s fortune changed a few days later when the team took a Tuesday trip to Irish head coach Mik Aoki’s alma mater, Davidson University. Strong outings from senior southpaw Scott Tully, Vierling and junior relievers Charlie Vorsheck and Sean Guenther, allowed the Irish to hold the Wildcats (11-7, 3-1 Atlantic 10) to just three hits and secure the 2-0 win.

The good luck continued for the Irish over the weekend when they played a three-game series against conference rival Pittsburgh. With a strong offensive showing that featured three home runs, including a grand slam from junior outfielder Jake Shepski, the Irish took the first game by a score of 10-5. Saturday’s game was postponed, resulting in a doubleheader Sunday. Notre Dame took game one of the doubleheader in 12 innings after getting some clutch hits by sophomore infielder Cole Daily, Shepski and Johnson, winning by a score of 4-3. In the series finale, the Panthers (8-9, 1-5 ACC) answered, winning a game of their own in 12 innings, overcoming Irish junior right-handed pitcher Brad Bass’ strong showing — he only gave up only one run in 6 2/3 innings and struck out seven — to take the game, 2-1.

The road trip opened conference play for the Irish, who will have their first chance to defend their home field this week with a game Tuesday against Northern Illinois and Wednesday against Toledo before a three-game weekend series against No. 12 Florida State. First pitch against Northern Illinois is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Tuesday at Frank Eck Stadium.

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