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Irish beat Ducks, win five straight

| Friday, April 1, 2016

The rain couldn’t stop the red-hot Irish on Thursday night and neither could Oregon. In a game delayed by weather, Notre Dame (13-10, 4-5 ACC) held off the Ducks (11-10, 2-4 Pac-12), 6-3, for its fifth consecutive victory.

Irish head coach Mik Aoki credited consistency for the current streak.

“I think we’re bringing all of the facets of the game together,” Aoki said, “Where I think earlier in the year — there certainly were some games where they showed up together — but I think that we were inconsistent in the way that maybe our hitting didn’t show up one day and our pitching wouldn’t show up a different day, or different things like that. … Our at-bats have been really good, and our pitching has settled down. I really think that this was the team that I saw coming out of the gate. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but a big credit to our guys. I think they’ve just kept battling through it and doing a really good job.”

Down a run after the first inning, senior catcher Ricky Sanchez got the offense started for Notre Dame in the second inning with a drive to the right field wall for a triple off Oregon freshman starter Isaiah Carranza. Freshman third baseman Nick Podkul hit a scorcher between the diving glove of Ducks sophomore first baseman Kyle Kasser and the bag that went all the way to the fence for a double to easily score Sanchez from third.

Freshman designated hitter Cole Daily kept the rally going with a single to left field. Two batters later, junior second baseman Cavan Biggio dropped an RBI single into center to score Daily and give Notre Dame its first lead of the game, 2-1.

Junior second baseman Cavan Biggio rounds second base during Notre Dame’s 9-5 victory over UIC on March 22 at Frank Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer
Junior second baseman Cavan Biggio rounds second base during Notre Dame’s 9-5 victory over UIC on March 22 at Frank Eck Stadium.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Irish made a pair of highlight-reel plays in the top of the third inning. Senior shortstop Lane Richards made a difficult scoop on a ball that clipped the side of the mound before firing to first just ahead of the runner. Sophomore left fielder Jake Shepski got in on the action with a sliding catch to end the inning, stranding the tying run at third base for the Ducks.

Notre Dame broke into Oregon’s bullpen in the bottom of the fourth after the Irish opened the inning with a single and a walk. Biggio drove a ball off Ducks freshman reliever Kyle Robeniol to right field for a pair of RBIs, both of which were attributed to Carranza’s final line, to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 4-1.

Oregon cut into the lead in the top of the fifth, however, as junior outfielder Jake Bennett crushed a ball off the right-field fence for a double and his second RBI of the contest, making the score 4-2 and forcing senior starter Michael Hearne from the game.

His replacement, senior right-hander Connor Hale, surrendered a single to senior designated hitter Steven Packard, allowing a run to make it 4-3, but a 4-6-3 double play ended the threat, preserving Notre Dame’s lead. Though he only threw 11 pitches in the game, Hale’s short outing was enough to earn the win for Notre Dame.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Irish built themselves a golden scoring opportunity by working the bases loaded. Freshman right fielder Matt Vierling drew a walk to make the score 5-3, but they were unable to take further advantage, stranding three runners on base.

Notre Dame added a late insurance run with a gift from the Ducks in the eighth inning. Richards got on base thanks to a dropped ball in center field before back-to-back wild pitches advanced him from second base to home, all with two outs, to make it 6-3 and complete the scoring for the game.

Podkul, who finished the game with a walk, two hits and two runs scored, after the game discussed what the team needs to do to continue its hot streak.

“[We need to] keep having fun, keep playing with a high level of intensity and just go out there and do our thing,” Podkul said. “We have the talent. We just have to trust ourselves.”

The Irish have a quick turnaround before their next game, as they welcome Wake Forest (17-10, 4-5 ACC) to campus for a three-game set over the weekend.

“Those guys can swing the bat,” Aoki said. “Their numbers, quite frankly, are a little lower than what I thought, for a team that is as talented offensively as they are. … We’ve got to show up, and all facets of the game kind of have to show up at a pretty high level. If we do that, I feel really good about our chances playing whoever it is that we’re playing. But Wake will be good. They’ll certainly be a stiff test for us.”

First pitch Friday is at 6:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium. Action will get underway Saturday at 4:05 p.m. and Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

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