Irish arms blank Crusaders in shutout victory
Brian Hartnett | Thursday, April 9, 2015
It was a group effort on the mound for Notre Dame on Wednesday night at Frank Eck Stadium, as five pitchers contributed to a 6-0 victory over Valparaiso.
Sophomore left-hander Scott Tully got the midweek start for the Irish (21-10, 6-9 ACC), pitching five innings of three-hit ball. Notre Dame then called upon freshman right-hander Charlie Vorsheck, freshman right-hander Evy Ruibal, junior right-hander Connor Hale and freshman left-hander Sean Guenther, respectively, to complete the five-hit shutout against the Crusaders (10-17, 6-5 Horizon).
Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki said the Irish used the non-conference matchup to rotate in some fresh arms; Vorsheck made his collegiate debut in the sixth inning, while Hale pitched for just the third time this season.
“I think what it really speaks to is the fact that these guys have done a really good job of continuing to work, despite the fact that they haven’t gotten a ton of opportunities, and have continued to improve, have really poured themselves in the process of getting better rather than getting caught up in, ‘Oh gosh, I’m not getting opportunities right now,’” Aoki said. “I think Charlie Vorsheck is a kid who’s come a long way. Connor Hale, the way he goes about his business in practice has been really good, and I think Evy and Sean have continued to just improve and have had really good outings for us.”
Notre Dame struck early against Valparaiso freshman left-hander Connor Kaucic in the bottom of the second inning, scoring five runs.
After Irish senior right fielder Robert Youngdahl led off the half-inning with a single up the middle, sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge drove the ball toward the left field fence. Valparaiso junior left fielder Josh Clark appeared to catch the ball for a split second, but it fell out of his glove when he hit the wall, and Youngdahl crossed home for the opening run.
The next two Notre Dame runs came on plays that didn’t leave the infield. Lidge scored on a groundout to shortstop by junior designated hitter James Nevant, and one batter later, junior shortstop Lane Richards scored on an error by Crusaders senior shortstop Spencer Mahoney.
With senior center fielder Mac Hudgins on first base after the error, Irish sophomore third baseman Kyle Fiala capped off the scoring in the half-inning with a home run over the left field fence.
“That first inning, we knew [Kaucic] was a kid that doesn’t have a lot of velocity, and we wanted to just let the ball come to us a little bit, and I thought we got out there a little bit on the front side, but I think we were able to turn that around some, put a little pressure on them with our legs,” Aoki said. “Obviously, a well-hit ball, but the ball that [Mahoney] booted ended up being a pretty big play, gets Kyle up there.”
Notre Dame scored once more after the five spot in the second. The Irish loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning, and freshman pinch hitter Jake Shepski drove in a run on a fielder’s choice.
“I think throughout the course of the night, we had good at-bats, but between the third and eighth innings, we just didn’t necessarily get the timely hit,” Aoki said. “That’s just one of those things, baseball is that way.”
Valparaiso’s most serious threat came in the sixth inning, when Vorsheck surrendered a double and single, respectively, to the first two batters he faced. The freshman escaped the slow start to keep the shutout intact, however, as he got a strikeout, pop out and groundout to end the half-inning.
With the victory, the Irish improved to 15-1 in non-conference games. While many of Notre Dame’s non-conference games have come against unranked opponents, Aoki said the Irish have maintained the same intensity they’ve shown against top-ranked ACC teams.
“This team has done remarkably well, and what I’m really proud of them about, is the fact that they’ve come with a really consistent level of energy,” he said. “They’ve just been caught up in winning pitches rather than in allowing ourselves to play down to a midweek opponent and then play up to an ACC opponent like a Louisville, a Virginia or Florida State.
“I think our compete level, our energy level and our engagement level has been remarkably consistent from game one to now game 31, and that’s a real credit to these guys.”
Notre Dame will face No. 8 Florida State in a three-game series at Frank Eck Stadium beginning Friday.