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Notre Dame drops two of three in opening series

| Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Irish won the first game of their opening-weekend series against No. 24 Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla., but lost control of the final two, losing both games by double-digit margins.

“It was kind of a tale of two different teams,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “I thought Game 1, we did a good job of making the pitches when we needed to and making the plays when we needed to and getting some timely hitting. The other two games were disappointing, personally. We didn’t pick the ball up and make simple plays.”

Sean Fitzgerald, 04212013 vs Quinnipiac Ally Darragh
Irish senior right-hander Sean Fitzgerald, shown during an April 21 game against Quinnipiac, made his third opening-day start Saturday against Florida Atlantic.


Senior right-hander Sean Fitzgerald, one of just three seniors on the team, earned a win in his third opening-day start Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame (1-2) took an early 2-0 lead when junior right fielder Robert Youngdahl knocked in freshman second baseman Cavan Biggio with a home run to left-center in the first inning.

The Owls (2-1) pulled even in the bottom of the first, but Fitzgerald held Florida Atlantic hitless for the next three innings. He did not give up another run before leaving after the fifth inning.

“Sean Fitzgerald did a really good job,” Aoki said. “I think a recurring theme of the weekend is we’d like to see our pitchers be in the strike zone a little bit more, but … Sean was able to make the pitches when he needed to, and when Sean was on the mound we were able to make the plays we needed to. He was the beneficiary of a couple of well-turned double plays.”

The Irish had little trouble getting to Florida Atlantic starter Austin Gomber. Biggio earned his first collegiate RBI in the third inning, when he scored senior catcher Forrest Johnson on a sacrifice fly. Junior Ryan Bull immediately followed with a solo home run. The Irish added two more runs in the fourth and three more in the seventh to finish the afternoon with a 9-2 win. Youngdahl and Bull both went 2-for-4 with a homer on the day, while Johnson notched the first three-hit game of his career.

“I think Robert Youngdahl did a really good job in right field and at the plate,” Aoki said. “Cavan Biggio, new to our program, obviously, as a freshman, I thought he was really good at the plate. He made a couple of errors that were of that unforced variety, but overall, I was pleased with the way he played.

“Ryan Bull is playing a brand new position this year; I thought he acquitted himself very well. So there are some positives.”

But the Irish could not keep the Owls off the base paths or the scoreboard in Saturday’s nightcap, which the Irish lost, 16-6.

Sophomore right-hander Nick McCarty gave up seven runs (three earned) and left the game during the third inning. The bleeding, though, was far from over. Freshman right-hander Ryan Smoyer allowed two runs of his own during the remainder of the third inning, and Florida Atlantic scored three more in the fourth and added runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

Notre Dame committed six errors in the loss and added three more Sunday.

“I think the most disappointing thing about the way in which we went about playing defense in Games 2 and 3 is that they weren’t difficult plays, and they really were unforced errors,” Aoki said. “They kind of compounded, and in both [McCarty’s] and [junior pitcher] Scott Kerrigan’s cases, they compounded and the innings got away from them. Instead of coming up in a situation where we gave up two runs, we gave up five.”

Kerrigan, who did not play in 2013 because of shoulder surgery, faced many of the same problems as McCarty during his own start in the series finale Sunday afternoon. Kerrigan gave up eight runs (three earned) in less than three innings in an eventual 13-3 loss.

“I think for both Nick [McCarty] and Scott [Kerrigan], things just kind of got away from them a little,” Aoki said. “But you learn. It’s a learning experience. It’s a tough way to learn a lesson, but they’re a little better having gone through it. If this helps those guys have 12 more really good appearances, then it was worth the couple of blotches that we took as a result.”

The Irish only have a few days to regroup before heading back down south for the Irish Baseball Classic, which will be held at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, beginning Thursday.

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