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Notre Dame tops Incarnate Word in rout

| Friday, February 20, 2015

Notre Dame crossed the plate early and often Thursday to secure a 14-1 win against Incarnate Word at the Irish Alamo Invitational at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio.

The Irish (4-1) lit up the scoreboard in the first inning to take a lead they would never relinquish over the Cardinals (2-3). Senior designated hitter Blaise Lezynski rocketed an RBI single to right field to bring home sophomore third baseman Kyle Fiala and move sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio to third. Biggio scored two at-bats later off another RBI single from junior first baseman Zak Kutsulis to make it 2-0 after the first.

Notre Dame followed this trend of scoring two runs in each inning through the first four frames. However, it produced only one extra-base hit, a second-inning double from junior shortstop Lane Richards.

Sixteen players made plate appearances for the Irish, and every starter recorded at least one hit or RBI.

“I thought our approach at the plate was really good,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “I think all of our kids had good at-bats, competitive at-bats. I thought we did a really good job making UIW work for every one of the outs they got. … We didn’t really expand the [strike] zone very much at all, and I thought we showed a good, disciplined approach this evening.”

The Irish tacked on three more scores in the sixth inning, two in the seventh and one in the eighth to rock seven Cardinals pitchers for 14 runs.

Kutsulis led the offensive onslaught with four singles, four runs and one RBI in four at-bats, along with a steal. Last night was the junior’s third four-hit game in an Irish uniform, with the other two coming last season against Santa Clara and Michigan.

“He hit the ball hard a few times; he went out there and did a great job competing with two strikes in a couple of those at-bats,” Aoki said. “Zak had a good night. That’s good for us — I really believe that we’re a much better team when Zak is in our lineup and having good at-bats like that.”

Despite the big output at the plate, Notre Dame still struggled in a few areas Thursday. The team stranded 16 runners on the bases and recorded one error, which brings its five-game season total to 13.

“I’m not really concerned about it,” Aoki said of the stranded runners. “We scored 14 runs, so in order to score 14 runs, you’re going to get a lot of people on base, so you end up stranding some of them. It’s just a by-product of the fact that you have a lot of people on base, which is always a good thing.”

Junior left-hander Michael Hearne earned the win, giving up the Cardinals’ lone run in the top of the third off an RBI groundout from sophomore center fielder Michael Whitehead. Incarnate Word sophomore right-hander Cody Richey took the loss, charged with two earned runs on five hits through 1 2/3 innings.

Notre Dame’s starter threw six innings while giving up just one extra-base hit and walking three batters.

His one-run outing could have gone a much different way in the third inning, however. After Whitehead’s RBI left one runner on base, Hearne walked two consecutive Incarnate Word batters to load the bases with two outs.

Cardinals junior right fielder Austin Hoffman, representing the go-ahead run, fouled out in the next at-bat, and Hearne escaped the jam, tagged with the lone score.

“I think it’s pretty typical of Michael,” Aoki said. “He does a really good job of just working out of some of the messes that he finds himself in. … He never seems to let the moment get away from him, and I think we all felt really confident that he was going to be able to get out of that situation.”

Notre Dame will send senior right-hander Scott Kerrigan to the mound tomorrow at 3:35 p.m. to face Villanova sophomore left-hander Hunter Schryver.

Irish freshman right-hander Brandon Bielak will then take on Northwestern junior left-hander Matt Portland on Saturday at 2:05 p.m., while junior right-hander Nick McCarty’s opponent Sunday will depend on how Notre Dame fares in its next two games.

All games will take place at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio.

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Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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