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ND wins three games in opening weekend

| Sunday, February 15, 2015

Notre Dame opened its season with a packed schedule in Norman, Oklahoma, this weekend and came home with a 3-1 record.

The Irish defeated Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (SIU-E), 7-6, in a comeback win Friday afternoon to open their season, before going on to lose to Oklahoma, 6-1, later that evening.

Notre Dame bounced back in the next two games against the Sooners (3-2) to earn a 10-9 win Saturday and a 5-1 win Sunday to take the series.

“It was a really great weekend for us going in there facing a quality opponent like Oklahoma, and facing [senior pitcher Ryan Daniels] of SIU-E, who was 7-0 last year, and being able to come out with three out of four was outstanding” Irish coach Mik Aoki said.

Irish sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio makes contact with a pitch during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Clemson on May 9 at Frank Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio makes contact with a pitch during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Clemson on May 9 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Throughout all of last season, the Irish were unable to capture a road series victory. Aoki said the Irish are not focused on last year’s road woes at all, and their play this weekend demonstrated just that.

“They did a really good job executing our season’s mantra, ‘Take every single game just one pitch at a time,’” Aoki said. “Don’t get caught up in the past, don’t get forward looking and trying to be as good as we can on the pitch that we’re about to play.”

Although the Irish jumped to a 5-1 lead over the Cougars (0-3), Notre Dame had to make a comeback Friday night, and it came from the bat of sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge.

In the bottom of the seventh, down 6-5 with two outs and senior center fielder Mac Hudgins on first, Lidge roped a two-run homer over the right field fence to put the Irish up 7-6 and clinch the game.

In the second game Friday night, Notre Dame was unable to get much going against Sooners sophomore pitcher Jake Elliott. Elliott threw seven shutout innings, giving up only two hits and two walks.

“[Elliott] was able to slow our bats down early in the game.” Aoki said. “He was showing a really good quality changeup, we swung through it a few times, and then later on once he slowed our bats down, he sped us back up again with a solid fastball. We were stuck in the middle. We were out in front of the change-up but behind the fastball, and he was able command that fastball. We were just never able to get back into it.”

The Irish bounced back  the next day with an explosion of 20 hits over the next two games against Oklahoma.

“I was happy to see that we adjusted over the weekend,” Aoki said. “We told the guys we want to be efficient against the fastball, and if we were made to look bad sometimes with the off-speed stuff early in the count, that’s okay, and if we find ourselves in two-strike counts, we’re just going to battle and compete. And that’s what we did.”

The Irish took a 10-2 lead after a six-run fourth inning in the first game and was able to hold on for a 10-9 win. Sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio led the Irish with a near cycle, missing out only a home run. He finished with three hits, an RBI and two runs.

Freshman starting pitcher Brandon Bielak threw five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks.

Sunday, junior starting pitcher Nick McCarty tossed seven-and-two-thirds innings, giving up only one run on four hits, leading the Irish to a 5-1 victory. Aoki said he was pleased with his pitching staff’s performance over the weekend.

“I thought our four starting pitchers did a phenomenal job for us, and in relief roles, we had guys who came in and looked great,” Aoki said. “They went out there to go get outs and compete. I feel good about where our pitching is.”

Cavan Biggio again almost hit for the cycle Sunday, again only missing the home run to complete the set.

Notre Dame will next compete this weekend in the Irish Alamo Invitational in San Antonio, Texas, against Incarnate Word, Villanova and Northwestern. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. Friday.

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