NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Clutch hits from sophomores Cavan Biggio and Ryan Lidgeand outstanding pitching efforts from sophomore Ryan Smoyer and freshman Sean Guenther propelled Notre Dame to a 5-2 win against No. 8 Florida State, its sixth consecutive victory.
With the win, the Irish (22-10, 7-9 ACC) have now tied last year’s win total with 23 regular season games remaining and picked up their first victory against the Seminoles since a 3-1 win June 10, 2002 in Tallahassee that clinched Notre Dame’s last berth in the College World Series.
Paired up against one of the best offense teams in the country the Irish pitching was certainly up to the challenge Friday, as Smoyer improved his season record to 5-0 with a solid seven innings on the hill. He gave up a two-run bomb in the second inning to Dylan Busby that gave the Seminoles an early 2-0 lead, but looked very much in control the rest of the night. Following the homer, he retired the next nine batters and didn’t allow a runner to get past second base the rest of his night.
Smoyer finished the night with two runs, five hits and a walk while striking out six on a career-high 108 pitches. On fire since mid-March, he is 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last five appearances (30.0 IP). He has struck out 17 and walked just four during that time.
“The big thing for Ryan recently is that he has been on top of the baseball, so his fastball is kind of running downhill,” head coach Mik Aoki said. “He has done a good job commanding the strike zone, which is unbelievably important against a team like Florida State, who is unbelievably prolific in being able to draw walks. Their plate discipline is really good. I thought Ryan would be a good matchup for them because he has been in the zone recently. It was good outing for him.”
— WatchND by @stjoemed (@WatchND) April 11, 2015
Following Smoyer, Guenther entered the game with runners on first and second and no outs. He promptly struck out All-American D.J. Stewart before loading the bases with a hit by pitch. With his back against the wall, Guenther thrived under the pressure, striking out two batters in a row to get out of the jam.
In the ninth he stonewalled the Seminoles with two more strikeouts sandwiched around a walk and fly out to earn his second save of the season. He finished the game with a whopping five strikeouts in just two innings of work. He allowed just a walk and also hit a batter.
“It was a lot of fun for me getting to go out there in that tough situation,” Guenther said. “Smoyer really did a great job only giving up that one home run and our bats did a great job putting us in a spot to win, so I was really happy to hear my name called to have a chance to go out and try to get a win.”
“Gunny [Sean Guenther] is Gunny,” said Aoki. “It doesn’t seem like any moment overwhelms him. He goes in there and competes like crazy. I thought he did a nice job of staying focused on the job at hand. We’ve kind of come to expect this of Sean. He stays really composed, he has good stuff and he trusts it.”
For the night, the Irish pitching duo allowed the Seminoles just five hits, two walks and three hit by pitch. No FSU player had more than one hit.
During Notre Dame’s six-game winning streak, the Irish pitching staff has a 1.17 ERA and has 46 strikeouts to just nine walks.
At the dish, the Irish used the long ball to tie the game at two in the third inning, as Biggio took a 2-2 pitch and sent it over the right-field wall to plate senior Mac Hudgins as well.
The game-winning run came in the fourth inning, as junior designated hitter Rickey Sanchez singled up the middle to score junior Lane Richards from third base.
As the two squads entered the later stages of the game, Lidge came through big in the seventh frame to increase the Notre Dame cushion to three. A pair of walks to Kyle Fiala and Biggio allowed senior Ryan Bull to lay down a beautiful bunt and advance the two runners into scoring position. With two outs, Lidge knocked a looping single to right field and up the Irish lead to 5-2.
“It was enormous,” Aoki said of the big Lidge two-RBI single. “I think it was Ryan doing a really good job of two-strike adjusting. He got that changeup and stayed right on it and drove it into right field. Especially considering the inning before we had bases loaded with one out and we were unable to capitalize on it, to go to that well twice and not capitalize would have been tough. Two-out RBI are always important and those were especially huge.”
All five Notre Dame runs came with two outs.
Fiala and Biggio both finished with two runs scored, while the former added two walks and hit and the latter a walk and two RBI on the homer. Lidge had two walks to go along with his clutch two-run single.
The Irish tagged Florida State starter Boomer Biegalski (2-3) with the loss, as the sophomore allowed three runs, five hits and five hits while striking out six batters. Reliever Alec Byrd gave up two runs, two hits and three walks in 2.2 innings of work.
Notre Dame’s defense continued its stellar work Friday, as it increased its errorless games streak to six consecutive games. The Irish haven’t committed an error since the fourth inning of the series finale against Virginia on March 29 (59.0 innings).