Two things have been proven true about Scottsdale Notre Dame so far in this young season – Notre Dame is never out of a game, and senior Nick Affronti is a monster at the plate.
Both conclusions were reinforced Tuesday as Affronti blasted a two-run, game-winning home run to left-center to give Notre Dame an 8-6 win over Fountain Hills at Notre Dame.
“We know how to come back,” Affronti said. “We know how to turn it on.”
Fountain Hills (10-1) opened up scoring with a solo home run from junior Andrew Bryniarski in the top of the first. Notre Dame (6-1) took a brief 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third, but Fountain Hills answered with three runs in the fourth to retake the lead.
Notre Dame’s bats were consistently frustrated by junior pitcher Nick Wojtysiak, who struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings while allowing just two earned runs.
Wojtysiak isn’t an imposing figure on the mound, but he mixed his pitches well and rarely missed his spots.
“I’ll give it to him,” Bryniarski said. “He had really good stuff.”
But when Wojtysiak did slip – Notre Dame dinged him for 10 hits – his defense too often abandoned him. Fountain Hills committed four errors that led to four unearned runs, including the run that tied the game at 6-6 with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
Fountain Hills entered that inning up 6-4. Nine-hole hitter Jimmy DiTroia started the frame with a single to center, and scored batters later when Fountain Hills misplayed a single to center that rolled to the fence. Devon Deraad then tied the game with an RBI single, his fourth hit of the contest and one that chased Wojtysiak and brought Bryniarski to the mound.
Bryniarski struck out the next batter, bringing up Affronti, who was 0 for 3 to that point in the game.
“I was thinking just poke it over the second baseman and get it over,” Affronti said.
Instead, the ball sailed over the fence in left-center, almost the exact spot Bryniarski had dropped his solo shot at the beginning of the game.
“At least it wasn’t cheap,” Fountain Hills coach Mike Briguglio said. “It wasn’t cheap.”
Thomas Lehman got the win after pitching three innings of relief, allowing three hits and two runs. Deraad pitched the first four innings and allowed four hits and four runs, but did most of his damage at the plate, going 4 for 4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run.
Many of Deraad’s hits gave Notre Dame new life. Now, Notre Dame just has to figure out how to get them earlier.
“We’re going to focus a lot more coming out early,” Affronti said. “This shouldn’t be a comeback team. This should be a dominating kind of team.”