Irish drop two of three in opening series of season
Hunter McDaniel | Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Notre Dame returned to the diamond for the start of the new season over the weekend, dropping two out of three at Santa Clara.
The No. 24 Irish (1-2) opened the 2016 campaign Friday night at Stephen Schott Stadium with a 5-0 win behind a dominating performance from junior right-hander Ryan Smoyer and contributions up and down the lineup.
Smoyer (1-0) was perfect through his first 15 batters and only allowed two hits and three base runners in his seven innings. Junior Scott Tully and senior David Hearne each added an inning of scoreless ball in relief to finish the shutout for the Irish.
“I’m really happy for [Smoyer],” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said. “He’s an incredibly hard-working kid. He embodies at a really high level all of the things that we value as a program. The preparation, the team-first attitude and all of those things. I’m incredibly happy for him that he got off to a good start. Certainly really, really well-deserved. He’s a great kid, and we’re very fortunate to have him. We won’t ever take him for granted, that’s for sure.”
On the offensive side of the ball, a fifth-inning, inside-the-park home run from junior second baseman Cavan Biggio was the highlight of a night in which the Irish scored a run in each of the third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings to complement Smoyer’s gem on the mound.
While the Irish put up five runs Friday night, they were unable to cross the plate once Saturday as they were shut out, 2-0, by the Broncos (2-1).
The team finished with seven runners left on base while accumulating seven hits, but it was unable to break through against Broncos junior starter Steven Wilson.
For Notre Dame, sophomore right-hander Peter Solomon (0-1) went three innings, surrendering two runs on four hits and two walks. Senior reliever Michael Hearne kept the Irish in the game with five innings of three-hit ball.
In the rubber match Sunday afternoon, Notre Dame’s comeback attempt fell short as the Irish dropped the rubber game, 4-2, as early mistakes on the defensive side of the ball put the team in a hole that they were unable to work out of.
Sophomore starter Sean Guenther (0-1) gave up four runs, two earned, on four hits and a walk in his four innings of work. Santa Clara scored a pair of unearned runs in the opening frame thanks to a pair of Irish errors, one by Guenther and one by Biggio.
“I think unfortunately we’re all mistake-prone as human beings,” Aoki said. “Baseball players are no different. Those things, I don’t think they necessarily only happen early in the year; they’re just things that will happen throughout the course of the year. We certainly have more than enough time to recover from the mistakes that we made.”
Junior designated hitter Torii Hunter Jr. and freshman right fielder Matt Vierling each recorded their first career hits for Notre Dame, both singles in the sixth inning. Sophomore left fielder Jake Johnson drove in Hunter Jr. in the same frame to get the Irish on the board, and Vierling added a solo home run in the eighth inning to cut Santa Clara’s lead to two runs. The comeback ended there, however, as the Irish dropped their second consecutive game and the series to the Broncos.
“We didn’t have the quality at-bats we’re looking for with runners in scoring position,” Aoki said. “Unfortunately that was a little missing, but I thought there were a lot of bright spots. I thought Ryan Smoyer threw the ball really well. I think our pitching staff, all of the guys who threw this weekend, threw really well. Solomon struggled a little bit, but he’s certainly capable of being a heck of a lot better than he was this weekend, and I think that he will be moving forward. Matt Vierling, I thought, played really well. There were times at which I thought we played really well, but obviously we’re a little disappointed with the outcomes. But we’re still only three games in. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, so we’ll be fine.”
Notre Dame returns to action next weekend at the Alamo Irish Classic with games against Incarnate Word, Bradley, Texas Southern and Gonzaga. All games will be played at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, Texas.