BLACKSBURG, Va. – University of Notre Dame sophomore designated hitter Jake Shepski had a game for the ages Thursday night, as the Lockport, Illinois native bashed three homers as part of a nine-RBI, 17-total base day in a 16-3 lashing of the Virginia Tech Hokies to open a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series.
Entering the game with one career homer, Shepski went ballistic in an effort that rewrote the Notre Dame record books. He hit a solo homer in the first inning, a three-run homer in the second, a two-RBI triple in the third, a three-RBI homer in the fourth and a double in the eighth to finish with four runs scored, nine RBI and 17 total bases. He ended the game a single short of hitting for a cycle in reverse order.
“Recently I’ve tried to bring more confidence to the plate and not look back at any bad at-bats. I feel like I did that my senior year of high school, not looking down at the bad at-bats and focusing more on the good at-bats and trying to get better. You just hope to see the baseball well and try to time him (the pitcher) up and look for the pitch you want.
“With every home run or every ball you square up I feel like you get more and more confident. I just want to help the team every time I go to the plate.”
Shepski’s performance was just one of several outstanding outings by Notre Dame players, as the Irish plated one run in the first inning, six in the second, three in the third, five in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Freshman infielder Nick Podkul went 3-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored. Senior catcher Ricky Sanchez posted another three-hit day to go along with a walk and a run scored. Junior second baseman Cavan Biggio tallied a hit, two walks and three runs scored. Meanwhile, Zak Kutsulis (2-5, RBI), Matt Vierling (2-6, 1 R) and Lane Richards (2-3, 1 R) all had two-hit days. Senior Kyle Richard notched a pair of RBI.
Seven of Notre Dame’s nine position players had hits by the second inning and the Irish batted around in the second frame.
On the mound, junior RHP Ryan Smoyer (2-3) picked up his fourth quality start in six appearances this season by going eight innings and allowing eight hits, four runs (3 ER) and two walks while striking out a career-high seven batters. He lowered his ERA to 2.72.
Sophomore RHP Charlie Vorsheck hurled a clean ninth to lower his ERA to 3.86.
Notre Dame had its way with Virginia Tech pitching all night, jumping on starter Packy Naughton to the tune of nine runs on 10 hits and two walks in 2.1 innings pitched. Relievers Joey Sullivan (1.0 IP, 4 R, 4 H) and Chris Monaco (4.2 IP, 3 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 SO) didn’t have much luck either.
The Irish and Hokies continue their three-game ACC series at 5:30 p.m. (ET) Friday. Fans can follow along through ESPN3 (video), WatchND (audio) or live stats. Links for all three are on the baseball schedule page of UND.com.
“This is a big weekend for us in the ACC,” said Shepski. “You can’t think about that though. We are just trying to go out there and play our best baseball every day.”