Baseball: Early deficit crushes Cats

Jonah Rosenblum

Sun-drenched Rocky Miller Park played like a hitter’s paradise on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Notre Dame was the main beneficiary of the power surge, belting three home runs in a 9-4 victory over Northwestern.

With temperatures hovering in the eighties all afternoon long, the ball was carrying as much as it has all season. A gentle wind blowing toward the fence didn’t hurt matters.

“We get extremes here,” said sophomore shortstop Kyle Ruchim, who finished with four hits, including three doubles. “We either get, it’s impossible to hit, or you get a day like today where it caters to the hitter. It was great. This is how a game is supposed to be played – in nice weather. So, we definitely get excited when we come out and we see blue sky and wind blowing out, that’s for sure.”

Fighting Irish first baseman Trey Mancini took advantage, knocking two balls out of the park. His first home run gave Notre Dame a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. His second shot, a solo blast over the left-field fence, gave the Fighting Irish a 7-2 lead in the top of the fifth.

Mancini’s second home run came right after third baseman Eric Jagielo knocked sophomore starter Dan Tyson out of the game with a deep blast over the right-field fence. Overall, home runs accounted for five of the six runs that Tyson surrendered on Tuesday, continuing an alarming trend for the Cats’ southpaw. He also surrendered a rocket over the right-field wall in NU’s 6-4 loss to UW-Milwaukee at Miller Park on Wednesday.

“Hanging curveballs,” coach Paul Stevens said. “They go a long way. There’s already spin there and he has just kept a couple of them up and that’s really hurt him.”

After a successful relief appearance in NU’s 5-2 loss to Indiana on Saturday, Tyson surrendered eight hits and six earned runs in four and one-third innings against Notre Dame (28-23). He did record five strikeouts during his time on the mound, inducing several Fighting Irish hitters into chasing low offspeed pitches.

“He did a great job of coming in against a really good lefthanded hitter for Indiana and struck him out with three curveballs,” Stevens said, before trailing off. “He’s still a puppy and he’s learning and there are days that he has it and there were a couple pitches today that…”

The Cats (17-34) played from behind from the outset, but that’s not to say that they didn’t have chances to mount a comeback. Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the first inning, senior first baseman Paul Snieder got the bats rolling with a hard line drive into center field. After junior left fielder Jack Havey walked on five pitches, Ruchim golfed the first pitch he saw from Patrick Veerkamp into short left field. By the time Notre Dame left fielder Mac Hudgins got to it, one run had scored. Junior designated hitter Colby Everett pushed another run across when he fisted an up-and-in pitch into short center field.

Their first-inning rally fell short, however, when senior catcher Geoff Rowan chopped a ground ball to the shortstop for a 6-4-3 double play. Another Cats’ rally was laid to rest in the top of the third, when Havey grounded a 1-2 pitch to Fighting Irish shortstop Tommy Chase for another tailormade 6-4-3 double play.

NU finished with 13 hits but could only knock four runners home. The Cats left runners on base in each of the last six innings, and stranded multiple base runners in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

“It comes again to what I was talking about with me striking out earlier,” Sneider said “We just got to swing the bat, try to barrel up the ball. We just got to put the ball in play and good things will happen.”

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