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Notre Dame Baseball

Worth the wait: No. 15 Notre Dame walks-off Duke

March 19, 2021
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Link Jarrett had waited almost two full years for this moment.

Why not wade through extra innings in the process? And finish on the first home run of a senior player's career?

That was the scene Friday night at Notre Dame's Eck Stadium, where Jarrett made his home debut after being hired in July 2019 and saw Ryan Cole make it a victorious one with a no-doubt blast to left field that lifted the No. 15 Fighting Irish to an 6-4, 13-inning win.

“Man it was just, it was almost surreal,” Jarrett said. “And to stand there and watch that ball go into the bushes and watch our guys flood out of that dugout with the coolers. You could tell how big that moment was for them and the magnitude and the understanding of these ballgames. They're into it. It was obviously a moment I'll never forget.

“T'hey went and got the ball out of the trees and he tried to give it to me, and I said, 'Ryan, you keep that one, man. That's you. You deserve it. Keep that ball.' Just a fun day. Never forget it.”

The win for Notre Dame (8-2, 8-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) marked the program's sixth in a row – all in ACC play – and came in the program's first time at home since May 2019.

After a promising 11-2 start to the 2020 season, the Irish never got to make their home debut after COVID-19 wrecked the sports world and brought society at large to a halt.

On Friday, Notre Dame made up for lost time.

Joe Sheridan was flawless in long relief on the mound, and Tanner Kohlhepp slammed shut Duke (7-7, 3-4 ACC) across the final three frames.

Consider: Notre Dame allowed its guests to score four times in the fourth inning, a frame that resulted in a 4-2 deficit, and then kept at bay the Blue Devils for the other dozen trips to the plate.

“You hope it just continues to grow; these are Super Regional games,” Jarrett said. “There's no doubt about it. Every one of these games on our schedule, the way the schedule is laid out, these are Super Regional-caliber events.

“This is what you're going to deal with when you're playing to go to the College World Series. And we talk about it every weekend. You have to bring it every Friday, Saturday, Sunday. You've got to bring it every pitch of every one of these games, because the margin of error, like you saw tonight, at any moment in that game, it could have swung to either side. It is intense, competitive, tough, elite-level, high-level stuff with older players, more experienced players. … It's good stuff.”

Notre Dame nearly scored yet again in the first inning and did score the first runs of the 2021 home season in the third frame. Jack Brannigan and Spencer Myers scored for an early 2-0 lead

Duke responded with four immediate runs in its next trip to the plate, chasing Irish starter Will Mercer and also getting to reliever Liam Simon.

The Blue Devils stayed in command until the bottom of the sixth frame, when Irish All-American Niko Kavadas worked a 2-2 count that he transformed into his sixth dinger of the season – a doubtless shot to the Irish sign beyond the right-field wall.

After that Kavadas shot, neither team scored again for six-plus frames.

With Sheridan and Kohlhepp dominant on the bump, the Irish finally ended their 13-inning, four-hour, 16-minute debut with Cole's shot to left.

Now the Irish will try to build upon their winning streak and torrid start Saturday afternoon, when John Michael Bertrand is scheduled to make the start in Game 2 of the three-game set.

 

 
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