Sweep of Seminoles pushes streaking Irish past '14 win total
Apr. 14, 2015
Notre Dame is coming off its biggest baseball weekend in a decade, maybe longer.
The Irish surpassed their 2014 victory total and ran their win streak to eight with a sweep of a Florida State program that has long ranked among the college game's giants. The Seminoles went into South Bend as high as No. 7 in the national polls and averaging 7.6 runs a game. They left having scored just four runs in three games.
No, this wasn't your typical sweep.
"I think there's no getting away from that. That's absolutely true," coach Mik Aoki said Monday.
The Irish (24-10, 9-9 ACC) have regained their mojo after getting swept by Louisville and Virginia on back-to-back weekends in March. They won three straight at Pittsburgh before they took down the Seminoles, the highest-ranked opponent beaten by the Irish since 2007.
Aoki has blended young talent with a solid core of returning players from last year's 22-win team. A streak of 69 2-3 error-free innings that ended on Sunday stamped the team's identity as one of the nation's best defensively.
Zak Kutsulis moved from the outfield to solidify the Irish at first base, Cavan Biggio has made just one error in 202 chances at second and shortstop Lane Richards has regained trust in his arm following Tommy John surgery. Kyle Fiala is in his second season starting at third.
Several pitchers have been limited because of arm fatigue, Aoki said, but the Irish have more than survived. In fact, five freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors have combined for a 1.12 ERA over the last 72 innings, with 58 strikeouts against 12 walks. No one has been better than sophomore Ryan Smoyer, who is 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last five appearances totaling 30 innings.
Offensively, Kutsulis and Ryan Lidge led the sweep of the Seminoles. Kutsulis was 6 of 11 in the three games, with a homer Sunday. Lidge, batting a team-best .319, went 5 for 8.
Aoki said even when the Irish struggled in March, he liked the way they competed. He told his players two weeks ago they needed to "hit the re-set button" and win five, if not all, of the last six final ACC series to make the conference and NCAA tournaments. North Carolina State is up this weekend at home.
A look around the country:
POLL WATCH: Texas A&M (33-3) is No. 1 this week in polls by D1Baseball.com, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball newspaper. LSU (31-6) is No. 1 by PerfectGame.org.
REBELS WITH A CAUSE: Mississippi is 18-18 overall and 7-8 in SEC play, but the Rebels have won five of nine against teams that were No. 1 when they played. Ole Miss took two of three on the road against Vanderbilt this past weekend. Three weeks ago they won two of three at home against then-No. 1 Florida. They also own a win over LSU.
STREAK ENDS: UC Irvine's nation-leading 15-game win streak ended with Sunday's 5-0 loss to Long Beach State. The Anteaters (21-11, 8-1), coming off a College World Series appearance, lost nine of their first 12 games. They now lead the Big West by two games.
OFFENSE GALORE: Minnesota State-Mankato outscored Bemidji State 88-34 in a four-game sweep, including a 41-20 win that set a school record for runs. The teams' 56 hits in that Saturday game set a Division II record for most combined hits in a game. The Mavericks' bats stayed hot Sunday, when they hit 10 home runs and totaled 39 hits in a doubleheader.
OFFENSE GALORE II: Freshman JJ Schwarz became the first Florida player to hit four home runs in a game, pulling off the feat in a 22-2 win over Stetson last week. Schwarz had 10 RBIs with homers in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings and a two-run double in the eighth.