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Irish unable to strike back after giving up two early runs against Northwestern

| Thursday, April 12, 2018

Looking to keep up the momentum after a win against Michigan State on Tuesday, Notre Dame played its second-straight game against a Big Ten opponent Wednesday night at Frank Eck Stadium. But the Irish struggled at the plate, leaving nine men on base in a 2-0 loss to Northwestern.

The Wildcats (9-17, 1-8 Big Ten) struck first in the opening frame of the game, as Northwestern scored a run on Notre Dame (14-19, 5-10 ACC) in the first thanks to an RBI single from senior catcher Jack Claeys off Irish senior right-hander Charlie Vorsheck, making his first start since March 27 against Kent State.

Eddie Griesedieck | The Observer
Irish senior pitcher Charlie Vorsheck steps forward to pitch off the mound to pitch during Notre Dame’s 2-0 loss to Northwestern on April 11 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Another run in the top of the second forced Irish head coach Mik Aoki’s hand to replace Vorsheck after just 1 2/3 innings with Cameron Brown, and the sophomore left hander threw 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief work to keep the Irish in it.

“[With] Charlie, we’re trying to get him back from injury, and I just didn’t think his stuff looked like what we’re accustomed to seeing from Charlie when he’s at his best,” Aoki said on the decision to pull his starter in the second inning. “It had gotten to two runs, they got the knock to put a guy on, granted it was with two outs but I just didn’t feel like we could afford to chase any more runs at that point.

“I thought Cam [Brown] did a good job … competing with his slider and mixing in the fastball here and there. I think it sort of changed the tenor of the game; they were bringing the action to us and I think as soon as Cam got in there it changed the overall momentum and feel of the game.”

But Notre Dame’s bats struggled to get going, as Northwestern used a platoon of pitchers to keep the Irish scoreless over seven innings of work. Notre Dame’s best chance came in the bottom of the seventh after freshman first basemen Niko Kavadas led off the inning with a walk, and advanced to third after a double by sophomore designated hitter Daniel Jung. But with two men in scoring position and no outs, the Irish promptly grounded into three-straight ground outs to end the inning still scoreless.

“I thought Danny Jung and Niko Kavadas swung the bat pretty well,” Aoki said. “I kind of got a sense from some of the other guys that their swings got really big. This was the first night here where the wind is blowing out a little bit and I think they got a little greedy. I think our guys are used to seeing a little bit more velocity than what some of those kids brought, and their eyes got a little too big instead of just staying within ourselves and staying short and compact to the baseball, which is when we as a team are at our best.”

In the eighth, the Irish got out of their own jam, as sophomore right hander Andrew Belcik came in with men on second and third with no outs and managed to escape with two strikeouts and a come-backer to keep the Irish within striking distance.

But despite the solid work from the Irish bullpen, the offense failed to get anything going in the final innings, and Notre Dame went down 1-2-3 in the ninth to seal the win for the Wildcats.

“I felt like we got a little long and were looking to try and launch some balls a little bit, and it hurt us. We made a lot of lazy, fly ball outs tonight and for the majority of the season that hasn’t been us,” Aoki said.

Next up, Notre Dame will hit the road for a conference slate against No. 4 North Carolina State. The three-game series is set to begin Friday against the Wolfpack (26-6, 11-4 ACC). First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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