Irish split four games in Charleston
Ryan Kolakowski | Tuesday, March 5, 2019
This weekend, Notre Dame traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, for a pair of non-conference series against Ball State and Charleston Southern. The Irish split their four games down south, returning home with a sweep over Charleston Southern and two losses to Ball State.
On Friday afternoon, the Irish (4-7) climbed out of an early three-run deficit to defeat Charleston Southern (4-9) 7-4. Notre Dame scratched the first run across the plate when sophomore left fielder Ryan Cole scored on a wild pitch from Charleston Southern’s Tyler Weekley.
The Buccaneers tagged Notre Dame sophomore pitcher Tommy Sheehan for four runs in the second inning. Charleston Southern led off the top of the second inning with a double, a walk and a run-scoring single. Sheehan then induced two swinging strikeouts with runners on first and third base. Sheehan hit a batter to load the bases and allowed a pair of singles to surrender three more runs, but he eventually forced a popup to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the second, the Irish responded with three runs of their own to tie the game at four runs each. Sophomore Spencer Myers recorded a leadoff single and stole a pair of bases to reach third. Junior Daniel Jung reached on a fielding error, allowing Myers to score an unearned run. Freshman infielder Carter Putz lined a double to right center, bringing home two more runs.
The Irish took the lead in the bottom of the third inning when Myers walked and Jack Alexander doubled with two outs to take the 5-4 lead. The Irish went on two post two insurance runs in the eighth inning to clinch the 7-4 victory.
Sheehan posted eight innings of work, retiring 17-consecutive batters from the second inning to the seventh inning, to record the win and improve his record to 2-1 for the season. Sophomore Cole Kmet tossed a perfect inning with two strikeouts to record the save, his first of the season.
“[The Buccaneers] were able to string stuff together in that second inning, put the bat on the ball and find some holes,” Sheehan said in a postgame interview. “I tried to not let it affect me too much and just get back to my plan for the day, just going out and attack hitters.”
On Saturday, the Irish dropped game one against Ball State (5-6) early in the afternoon. Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning against their in-state opponents, but Ball State responded with four runs in the fourth inning and two more runs in the fifth. Junior Cam Brown surrendered five earned runs in five innings of work to take the loss for the Irish, his first of the season. Senior right fielder Eric Gilgenbach collected two solo home runs, scoring the only two runs for the Irish in the 6-2 loss.
“I really tried to develop my approach and just try to hit line drives back up the middle, seeing the ball and looking for a lot of off-speed because that’s what I’ve been getting lately,” Gilgenbach said postgame.
On Saturday night, the Irish completed the sweep against Charleston Southern with a 7-0 victory in game two. Junior Cameron Junker tossed career-best six scoreless innings, allowing only four hits while striking out six, to earn the win and improve his record to 1-2 on the season. Sophomore Tommy Vail pitched three innings of one-hit ball to close out the game and earn the save. Jung collected four hits, and Gilgenbach drove in three runs in the victory.
“I really wanted to get ahead of hitters and just pound fastballs, let the defense work,” Junker said postgame. “I’ve really been trying to limit walks lately and just pitch to contact and get guys out early in counts. I thought I executed that, didn’t allow many baserunners, got a couple big double plays with the defense behind me and it all worked out, so we won.”
The Irish closed out the weekend with a second loss to Ball State. Kmet took the mound to start the game for the Irish, and he posted a strong performance in the losing effort. In 7 1/3 innings of work, Kmet allowed seven hits and two earned runs while striking out 11 Cardinals. The Irish lineup struggled to find success at the plate, and Putz collected the only two hits of the game for Notre Dame. The Cardinals pitching staff struck out 12 members of the Irish lineup and limited the Irish to two hits and two walks for the game. Ball State clinched the two-game sweep over the Irish with the 2-0 victory on Sunday.
The Irish will go back on the road for spring break, returning to the Carolinas for seven games in 10 days. Notre Dame will start its road trip with a three-game conference series against Wake Forest. It will then travel to Western Carolina for one game before heading to Clemson for another trio of ACC games.