Booker’s Clutch Hit Pushes WMU Past Notre Dame in the 10th, 6-4
SOUTH BEND, Ind.- Senior Vinnie Booker’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the 10th inning lifted Western Michigan to a 6-4 victory over Notre Dame on the road Wednesday. Making his fifth career relief appearance, sophomore right-hander Kurt Hoekstra (1-0) threw an inning and two-thirds to record his first collegiate victory.
Hoekstra pulled double duty, starting the game at second base before taking the mound in the eighth with the score tied at 4-4. He took the rubber facing a two out, bases loaded situation and ended the Notre Dame threat with a groundout. He retired the Irish in order in the ninth, striking out two.
After a flyout and a single in the 10th, Hoekstra handed the ball off to RHP Gabe Berman. Berman gave up a single to the first batter he faced and then closed out the game with a line out and fly ball to center field. Berman’s save was his second in as many days and seventh overall of the season.
WMU junior shortstop Andrew Sohn drove in the game’s first run with his fifth triple of the year in the top of the third. Notre Dame answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame. Neither team would score again until the seventh, WMU putting two more on the board and the Irish scoring one to make for a 3-3 tie. Bronco freshman third baseman Grant Miller hit an RBI double and came across the plate on a two-base throwing error.
Western Michigan and Notre Dame traded runs in the eighth, leaving the game deadlocked at 4-4. Sohn ripped a leadoff single to center, moved to second on a sac bunt and was brought home on an RBI single by junior Jared Kujawa. The Broncos put two runners on in the ninth, but couldn’t push one across
Kujawa led off the top of the 10th with his second single of the night. A sac bunt by Miller and a wild pitch put Kujawa at third with one out. Brandon Cable walked and Theo Piccirilli was hit by a pitch to load the bases. WMU attempted a squeeze bunt with Dan Shutes at the plate, but Kujawa was thrown out at home for the second out. With two away, Booker looked at a first strike and then drove the game-winning hit to center field, scoring Cable and Piccirilli.
Western Michigan totaled 10 hits in the game, Sohn, Kujawa, Miller and Shutes each collecting two. Hoekstra also had a hit and run scored. Six different pitchers were used in the game for the Brown & Gold, including freshman Nick Vogelmeier who was making his first career relief appearance.
The Bronco pitching staff stranded 15 Irish runners on base and the offense got help from three Notre Dame errors, leading to three unearned runs.
WMU went 2-0 in non-conference contests this week, also defeating two-time defending Horizon League champion Valparaiso Tuesday. The Broncos take a 17-23 overall, 6-12 Mid-American Conference record into this weekend’s three-game home series against Eastern Michigan (16-27, 3-15 MAC).
Notable - Western Michigan head men's basketball coach Steve Hawkins traveled with the Bronco baseball team to Notre Dame Wednesday, serving as a honorary coach in the dugout.