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Notre Dame picks up two non-conference wins at home

and | Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Irish kicked off a 13-game home-stand with a pair of nonconference victories at Frank Eck Stadium, downing Valparaiso, 10-3, and Eastern Michigan, 5-0, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Notre Dame (20-22, 8-13 ACC) started off on the right foot Tuesday evening by scoring early and often to rout visiting Valparaiso (16-23, 6-10 Horizon).

Irish senior pitcher Ryan Smoyer throws a pitch during Notre Dame's 8-3 win over Toledo on April 12 at Frank Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish senior pitcher Ryan Smoyer throws a pitch during Notre Dame’s 8-3 win over Toledo on April 12 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Senior right hander Ryan Smoyer gave the Irish five innings on the mound, holding the Crusaders scoreless except for a three-run blip in the fourth inning.

“Ryan did a good job outside of [the top of the fourth] where he got behind a little bit, and the guys behind him did a really good job as well,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said Tuesday. “Offensively, I thought we swung the bat really well, so I think overall it was a really well-played game by us.”

The offense started its damage against Crusader freshman starter Michael Mommersteeg in the second inning, as sophomore second baseman Nick Podkul delivered a two-run double to open the scoring. The Irish added two more runs in the frame, chasing Mommersteeg from the game after just two innings.

In the bottom of the third, freshman designated hitter Nick Neville blasted another two-run double to extend the lead, eventually scoring on a single by junior right fielder Jake Shepski to bring the lead to 7-0.

While the Crusaders immediately cut into that lead, the Irish got those runs back in the sixth thanks to the first triple of Ryan Lidge’s career. The senior catcher emptied the bases to push the lead the 10-3 — a score that stood thanks to four clean innings of relief by the Irish bullpen to secure the win for Smoyer.

“We’ve been talking about trying to win three games a week for a while to get ourselves out of the whole we dug for ourselves early in the season,” Aoki said. “We’re within striking distance of climbing back over the .500 mark. … We’ve got three conference weekends left, and those will make the difference between us being able to move into the ACC postseason or not.”

Pitching dominated Wednesday’s contest against the Eagles (17-24, 8-4 MAC).

Notre Dame junior righty Charlie Vorsheck and Eastern Michigan’s freshman right hander James Harness made short work of the first three innings, but Harness was lifted for junior righty Justin McMurtry to start the fourth inning.

Irish sophomore center fielder Matt Vierling welcomed the Eastern Michigan reliever to the mound by clearing the right-field fence with his sixth home run of the year to break the scoreless tie.

Vorsheck’s final line read five hits over six innings of work with four strikeouts and no walks. That performance followed his first career start in which he allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings while striking out six last week against Central Michigan.

“[Vorscheck has] done a good job to dedicating himself to getting into really good shape and working at the game at a higher level than he has in the past couple years,” Aoki said. “He’s always been a kid that we’ve had the faith that he would do the kind of things he’s doing for us now.”

Freshman right hander Patrick McDonald replaced Vorsheck in the seventh and proceeded to throw nine strikes on nine pitches and record three strikeouts — an “immaculate inning.”

The freshman kept the run going, striking out the first Eagles batter of the eighth inning on three pitches to record 12 strikes on 12 pitches, striking out four.

Eastern Michigan freshman second baseman Drake Peggs singled up the middle — on McDonald’s 14th consecutive strike — to finally break the run.

Aoki pulled McDonald after the single and brought in junior closer Sean Guenther.

“[I wanted to keep going] a little bit,” McDonald said. “But I knew that we had Guenther out in the pen, and he would do a good job shutting down the inning in a close game.”

“He gives up the hit, and at that point if they’re going to tie it up, I’d rather have it with one of the two guys we have the most faith in at the back end,” Aoki said. “The guys that have been there before. … At that point we felt like with five outs to go, let’s go to Guenther.”

Guenther struck out a batter, conceded a single and then induced a grounder to the shortstop to shut down the inning.

Vierling provided insurance in the bottom half of the inning. Podkul and sophomore shortstop Cole Daily both bunted for singles before senior third baseman Kyle Fiala walked to load the bases for Vierling, who delivered with a two-run single to center. Lidge followed with a single to score Fiala. Freshman outfielder Connor Power brought home Lidge later in the inning with a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 5-0 and give Guenther room to breathe.

The junior closer did not need it — Eastern Michigan loaded the bases with one out, but Guenther induced a shallow fly to right for the second out before striking out the final Eagle to preserve the shutout.

The Irish will next take the diamond when they face off against Duke in a three-game series beginning Friday at Frank Eck Stadium. First pitch it scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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