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Notre Dame struggles during spring break action

| Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Notre Dame took to Florida for the second time this season but came away with different results than its first trip to the Sunshine State. The Irish dropped the first two games of their ACC slate to Miami before coming away with a win to close the series; they were then swept by St. Joseph’s in a two-game series and managed to grab one win from No. 7 Florida State before heading home.

Notre Dame (8-10, 2-4 ACC) was unable to get anything going offensively in its ACC opener. The Hurricanes (9-10, 3-3 ACC) got on the board in the second inning when freshman catcher Isaac Quinones singled to left. Quinones made his way to third when freshman second baseman Willy Escala struck a double to left center and a second-consecutive double brought both runners home.

Graduate student southpaw Scott Tully tossed 4 1/3 innings of two-run ball, giving up five hits, three walks and striking out four batters. He was relieved by sophomore right-hander Anthony Holubecki, who gave up one hit in two innings. Fellow sophomore righty Zack Martin came in during the seventh inning, hit two batters and walked a third to load the bases and was promptly replaced by sophomore right-hander Andrew Belcik, who escaped the inning allowing one inherited runner to score on a wild pitch, capping off scoring for the game and handing the Irish the 3-0 loss.

The next day the Irish played a doubleheader in Miami. While the Hurricanes led from the third inning, when Escala hit a solo home run off freshman pitcher Tommy Sheehan, game one appeared to remain within reach for the Irish until the eighth inning when the Hurricanes put up five runs, giving them the 9-0 win.

Game two had a much more dramatic finish, as the Irish went to extra innings for the first time this season.

Once again the Hurricanes struck first, scoring in the first inning, but the Irish answered in the second, scoring for the first time in the series to tie the game at one run apiece. The Irish took the lead in the third, as junior shortstop Cole Daily reached on an error and junior second baseman Nick Podkul sent his first home run of the season to left field.

The Irish scored again in the fourth to give them a three-run cushion, but the Hurricanes came back in the bottom of the inning when freshman left-hander Cole Kmet came in to relieve sophomore right-hander Cameron Junker. Quinones singled and Escala reached on an error, advancing Quinones to third. A sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice plated the runners, making it a one-run game, but a double from redshirt-senior left fielder Michael Burns tied the game. A ground out for the second out of the inning brought Burns home and pushed Miami ahead by one.

The Irish drew the score even again in the seventh as Daily doubled to center and junior center fielder Matt Vierling grounded out, driving Daily in in the process to knot the game at 5-5.

The game remained tied through the end of the ninth, extending the game to extra innings. Podkul drew a walk to open the 10th and next up was Vierling, who was hit by a pitch. Sophomore first baseman Daniel Jung reached on a fielder’s choice, and a wild pitch moved Vierling and Jung into scoring position. Freshman catcher David LaManna walked to load the bases and a clutch two-out double from senior pinch hitter Alex Kerschner brought home the front two runners. Another error from the Hurricanes brought in LaManna and Kerschner and a scoreless bottom of the inning gave the Irish the 9-5 win.

The Irish then traveled to Port Charlotte, Florida, to take on St. Joseph’s (8-8, 0-0 Atlantic 10).

In the first game of the two-game series, the Hawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Each time the Irish seemed to make a dent in the lead, the Hawks answered, until a three-run inning from Notre Dame in the eighth tied the game at 8-8. Three-straight singles from Vierling, Kerschner and LaManna loaded the bases to start the inning. Jung walked to make the score 8-6, then freshman third baseman Jared Miller batted in Kerschner. LaManna came home on a sacrifice fly by Daily that the left fielder dropped, allowing Daily to reach base safely.

However, in the top of the ninth, the Hawks struck again and sealed the game, as the Irish loaded the bases and walked in a run. St. Joseph’s followed with a sacrifice fly to win the game, 10-8.

In the second game, the Irish opened scoring as Kerschner hit a double and was brought home by a fielder’s choice three batters later. Scoring stalled until the eighth when the Irish scored another run and added two more to the board in the ninth, but the squad quickly squandered its lead, giving up six runs in the bottom of the ninth off a series of singles and a two-run home run, giving the Hawks the 6-4 win.

The Irish then headed north to Tallahassee, Florida, to face off against another ACC squad in the Seminoles (16-4, 3-3 ACC). The Irish loaded the bases in the third inning, and Vierling put the Irish ahead, blasting a grand slam.

The Seminoles got on the board with a two-run inning in the fourth, but in the seventh, the Irish separated themselves as senior outfielder Jake Johnson drilled a two-out three-run homer to put Notre Dame up 7-2. Johnson’s home run was followed by a solo shot by Podkul.

Notre Dame was able to stave off a late comeback from Florida State, who put up two runs in the seventh and five in the eighth to make it a one-run game. Kmet picked up his second save of the season and held the Seminoles scoreless in the bottom of the ninth to give the Irish the win.

The Irish did not fare so well in their next two games against the Seminoles. The second game of the series was headlined by an inside-the-park home run from Daily, which got the Irish on the board and made it a 2-1 game in favor of Florida State. The squad knotted the game in the fifth, but the Seminoles added two more runs to their total by the start of the eighth. Notre Dame loaded the bases in the top of the eighth but was only able to come away with one run. A two-run Seminoles homer in the bottom of the frame put the game out of reach, as the Irish added one more run off a Vierling homer before the game ended in a 6-4 loss.

In the final game of the Florida swing, the squads found themselves tied with four runs apiece after the top of the seventh. However, freshman left-hander Tommy Vail and Belcik worked themselves into a jam in the bottom of the seventh and ended up giving up three runs, putting the Irish behind by three. The Irish failed to score in the eighth, but Podkul homered in the ninth. Despite his effort, Notre Dame was not able to put any more more runs on the board, and the Seminoles took the game and the series.

The Irish will host their home opener Tuesday against Northern Illinois at Frank Eck Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

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