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Irish roll to historic win over Wolverines

| Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fifty years was long enough to wait.

For the first time since 1964, the Irish defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor, beating the Wolverines, 9-1, on Wednesday evening to stay unbeaten in mid-week games.

“I thought we played much better,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “I thought the kids were far more engaged in the game than they were even last night. I wasn’t particularly happy with the way we went about that game last night, so tonight was good. We pitched well, I thought we swung the bats much better, I thought we got those timely hits.”

The Notre Dame victory featured four hits from sophomore left fielder Zak Kutsulis, five strike outs from sophomore left-hander Michael Hearne and six errors from the Michigan defense.

“Obviously they created a couple of innings for us or extended some innings for us a little bit, but I think that you always need that timely hit in order to take advantage of that sort of thing,” Aoki said. “We were able to do that tonight, so that was good for us.”

Freshman second baseman Cavan Biggio scored the first Irish run in the second inning when junior right fielder Robert Youngdahl hit into a double play. The Irish (12-20, 1-14 ACC) came out of the bottom of the second with a 1-0 lead when Notre Dame starter Scott Kerrigan (2-1), a junior righty, induced a double play of his own, and in the top of the next inning Kutsulis cracked a long double to right field with the bases loaded to make the lead 4-0.

The Wolverines (14-18-1, 4-5 Big Ten) scored their only run of the night in the fourth, when Kerrigan hit the leadoff man, junior center fielder Jackson Glines, then issued a walk to senior designated hitter Cole Martin. Both players advanced on a passed ball, and Glines scored the unearned run when junior second baseman Eric Jacobson grounded out to third base.

It was the only run given up by Kerrigan, who allowed three hits in five innings of work.

“I thought Scott was good; I don’t know that he had as good a start as he had last week or even in his previous outing, but I thought he competed,” Aoki said. “I thought he did a good job inside of the strike zone. He got some good double-play balls.”

The Irish scored two more runs in the top of the fifth, courtesy of three Michigan errors, and held onto the 6-1 lead through the bottom of the inning when Kutsulis make a great catch in left field.

Senior right-hander Donnie Hissa took over for Kerrigan in the bottom of the sixth after the starter allowed the first two batters to reach base, but Hissa got three straight outs to get out of the inning.

“Those were a couple of big innings Donnie pitched for us,” Aoki said. “Between a walk and an error [in the sixth], I think they almost came back into the game, and for Donnie to come in in relief of Scott in that first-and-second situation and not give up a run, I thought that was very big.”

Hissa then loaded the bases in the seventh before Glines struck out swinging to end the inning.

“The inning where he walks the leadoff guy and we got the double play ball and then chuck it into right field, for him to not give up a run there was really good,” Aoki said. “It kind of allowed everyone to take a deep breath and relax for the last couple of innings.”

The Irish scored their final three runs in the eighth, sparked by a lead off single from Kutsulis. With two outs, sophomore shortstop Lane Richards doubled to left to score Kutsulis, and then scored when a Michigan outfielder dropped a fly ball from junior Ryan Bull, who was pinch-hitting in place of the pitcher. Bull scored the final Irish run when junior center fielder Mac Hudgins knocked a double down the left field line.

Sophomore right-hander Michael Hearne got the final six outs for the Irish, five of them by strikeouts.

“Michael pitched really well. He commanded his stuff much better than he has in his previous two outings. I thought that he came in and did a really good job – I thought his fastball command was really good tonight.”

The Irish look to win their first conference series of three games or more as a member of the ACC the weekend when they host Boston College at CSU Baseball Stadium in Chicago. The three games are scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m.  Saturday and 2:05 p.m.Sunday.

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