Notre Dame bounces back with shutout win
Brian Hartnett | Thursday, April 23, 2015
It didn’t take Notre Dame long to recover from Tuesday night’s ninth-inning loss to Indiana, as the team scored early and often in an 11-0 victory against Chicago State at Frank Eck Stadium on Wednesday.
The Irish (27-13, 11-10 ACC) jumped out to a 3-0 lead after just five at-bats against Chicago State senior right-hander Ean McNeal, as senior right fielder Robert Youngdahl cleared the bases with a double into the right field corner.
Notre Dame tacked on three more runs the following inning, starting with a triple off the 330-foot sign in right field by freshman designated hitter Jake Shepski that scored junior center fielder Kyle Richardson. Shepski then scored on a groundout by sophomore third baseman Kyle Fiala, and one batter later, sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio launched a home run over the right-center field fence.
Shepski’s triple represented the first of his three extra-base hits against the Cougars (9-29-1, 2-11-1 WAC). He added a double in the fourth inning and a triple in the fifth inning.
“The thing I liked probably most with Jake was that he was taking really committed swings where he had the intent of trying to hit the ball hard,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said. “One of the things as a freshman, sometimes you see that off-speed stuff, you’re kind of slowing your slowing your bat down to it in an effort to just touch it. In a non-two strike count, we’ve been talking to him about staying aggressive, swinging that bat, swinging it hard just in case you hit it, and I think he did a good job of that.”
Richardson, who came into the game batting just .103 in 58 at-bats, bolstered his average with two hits and two runs, which Aoki said came as a result of an improved plate approach.
“I think Kyle finally has made a little bit of an adjustment with his two-strike approach,” Aoki said. “A lot of those hits came with two strikes, and it kind of calmed him down a little bit, and he had a good night.”
After tacking on another run courtesy of Fiala’s triple in the fourth, the Irish put up another three-spot in the fifth, with one run scoring on junior first baseman Zak Kutsulis’ single and the other two runs coming off Shepski’s triple.
Notre Dame, which saw every player in its starting lineup record a hit on the night, capped its scoring in the eighth on a single by senior left fielder Ryan Bull.
Irish junior right-hander Connor Hale got the midweek start, only the second in his college career and his first since 2013. Hale pitched five innings, allowing three hits and striking out one while throwing a total of 58 pitches.
“I didn’t think he was especially sharp, but he kind of managed his way through,” Aoki said of Hale. “I thought he did a good job of that, going in there and competing with his fastball. His off-speed stuff, he didn’t have a great feel for it — I don’t think he had a good feel for either his changeup or his breaking ball, but I thought he did a good job with his fastball.”
Freshman right-hander Charlie Vorsheck relieved Hale, but his night was short-lived. Chicago State senior left fielder Evan Davis hit a hard grounder that bounced off Vorsheck’s face and ricocheted to Kutsulis, who made the putout. Vorsheck was helped off the mound, and Aoki said he was going to be taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
“It’s too bad because I thought [Vorsheck] had pretty good stuff tonight, and I would have liked to see another inning or two out of him, but I guess he got himself an assist the hard way right there,” Aoki said.
Notre Dame freshman right-hander Evy Ruibal pitched the seventh and eighth inning, and Youngdahl made the switch to the mound in the ninth to finish the game for the Irish.
Notre Dame will move back to conference play this weekend when it travels to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to face Wake Forest. The three-game series is set to begin Friday at 6 p.m.