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Irish fall to Hurricanes in weather-shortened series

| Monday, April 11, 2016

Snow, rain and hurricanes cooled off a streaking Notre Dame this weekend, as the Irish had two games against No. 2 Miami (Fla.) cancelled due to the weather, then lost a third, 10-2, at Frank Eck Stadium on Sunday.

Precipitation followed the Irish (16-12, 6-7 ACC) all weekend, as the Hurricanes (25-4, 11-2) were delayed by the weather Friday, forcing that game to be pushed to a doubleheader Saturday, which was subsequently cancelled when the two teams awoke to three inches of snow.

The ACC foes finally made it onto the diamond Sunday, but the conditions were hardly ideal. Temperatures stayed in the mid 40s, 20 mph winds whipped towards left field and rain began to fall by the third inning and never stopped the rest of the way.

Miami’s mostly-Floridian lineup responded with hand warmers, sweatshirts under jerseys and balaclavas, but the chilled drizzle did nothing to cool off the Hurricanes’ bats, as they collected their third-highest run total of the season.

Leading the way, Hurricanes junior catcher Zack Collins went 3-for-5 on the day and finished a triple short of the cycle, collecting five RBIs and scoring three runs.

“They, and primarily Collins, made the big swing of the bat when they needed it,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said. “We missed a pitch here and there to Collins, and he got it done. Just one of those days.”

Collins entered the game ranked second in the nation in walks, followed by Irish junior second baseman Cavan Biggio, but neither drew a free pass Sunday.

Both swung freely and made good contact, Aoki said, but while Collins’s hits found empty space, Biggio’s could not. He finished the day 0-for-5, snapping a 10-game hit streak, and his struggles at the plate were part of a larger problem for the Irish, Aoki said.

“Even if we made barrel contact on it … you know, Cavan hits that ball into right-center field [in the first inning], and he really stepped on it, but the wind knocked it down,” Aoki said. “ … A lot of them just found gloves today. It’s just kind of a bad-luck deal, unfortunately.”

Wind factored heavily into the game. Collins’s first hit of the day, a double to right-center in the third that plated two runs, would likely have cleared the fence had it not been knocked down by the wind. In the top of the sixth inning, however, he was the beneficiary of a steady breeze to left field that carried a ball he crushed deep into left-center for a three-run home run.

Notre Dame’s first run of the game was also aided by that breeze, as senior left fielder Ricky Sanchez smacked a ball to almost the exact same spot in the bottom of the second for his first home run of the season. With the homer, Sanchez extended his hit streak to 11 games, tops on the team.

But Miami did not rely on just the long ball to generate its offense. The Hurricanes started the game’s scoring in the top of the first with a single by sophomore center fielder Carl Chester, who came around to score after redshirt junior first baseman Christopher Barr laid down a sacrifice bunt that Irish junior catcher Ryan Lidge threw away.

All told, Miami bunted three times in the first three innings, as junior designated hitter Randy Batista reached first on a dropped third strike that bounced off Lidge’s foot to start the third inning, then advanced to second on a bunt single and then third on a sacrifice bunt.

“I don’t think you could have come up with a collection of three better-placed bunts,” Aoki said. “The first one took a funky spin, the second one spun in the air and maybe on a dry day spins foul … and the last one hugged the line. They were just good bunts.”

Collins then doubled and came around to score when senior shortstop Brandon Lopez singled up the middle. The next inning, Aoki pulled his starting pitcher, sophomore right-hander Peter Solomon, giving him a final line of 3 1/3 innings pitched, four runs, three earned and the loss.

His replacement, sophomore left-hander Sean Guenther, went five innings and gave up five runs of his own — three from Collins’s long ball and two from runners he handed off to sophomore right-hander Evy Ruibal in the ninth, who gave up a bases-clearing double.

Notre Dame’s only run after the second inning came in the bottom of the seventh, when junior third baseman Kyle Fiala, in his first game back since breaking his hand nearly a month ago, singled, advanced to second on a balk, tagged up to third on a fly ball from Biggio and scored when sophomore outfielder Jake Shepski singled up the middle.

Irish sophomore outfielder Jake Shepski awaits the delivery during Notre Dame's 10-2 win over Wake Forest on April 3 at Frank Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish sophomore outfielder Jake Shepski awaits the delivery during Notre Dame’s 10-2 win over Wake Forest on April 3 at Frank Eck Stadium.

“[Miami’s] a good team, they’re a good team, and they made us pay,” Aoki said. “This one, you just gotta move on. I thought we played well. I thought we competed at a high level, so I don’t have any problem with that. Sometimes you lose those games.”

The loss is only the second at home this year for Notre Dame and comes midway through its longest homestand of the season. The Irish still have five more games, all this week, at Frank Eck Stadium, beginning Tuesday when they welcome Chicago State. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

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