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Notre Dame Baseball

Link Jarrett Notebook | 3.25

March 25, 2021

Notre Dame head coach Link Jarrett spoke on Thursday morning as his 14th ranked Irish prepare to host No. 7 Louisville this weekend. 

On strong start to the season and if it feels like last year:
"Not really at all. It just doesn't. It's a whole new group of guys. We never got to play them last year. So much transpired in the moments before it. 

"It doesn't feel familiar. Every one of these weekends is just such a grind. All of these teams are good. We went and opened with Wake Forest. I don't know where they were ranked, but that was a dynamic pitching staff. With guys in and out with COVID and hurt - every one of these weekends is tough. This is going to be no different. 

"We're at home. It doesn't quite feel the same feel, to be honest with you. You know you're playing a great team and that's about the closest I can get to saying it's similar. I haven't competed against them yet, so I don't really have a sense of what it's going to feel like on the field. I know our guys are chomping at the bit." 

On pitching:
"We should be in good shape. Some of these guys are going through stuff for the first time. How we're using Will Mercer is different than it was last year. He's coming off an injury that he wasn't 100 percent last year. The outings and results and role has been tough to pin down for him. We'll probably let (Joe) Sheridan roll out there first tomorrow to give him an opportunity and if we can use Will on Friday, we'll use him. If we don't, that gives him another day of rest. 

"To say that we have it really nailed down in what we're trying to do with the pitching, I don't have it nailed down yet other than (John Michael) Bertrand has been that guy in the middle that has been consistent and gives us a chance to utilize the same guys in multiple outings if you can keep them short.

"Our strength overall is probably the depth. Maybe not the top-end elite starting stuff, but you have guys that are competitive and a variety of righties and lefties. Our strength is in our numbers and depth. That's how we're trying to manage it other than letting Bertrand go out there on Saturday and hopefully give you a long outing." 

On Niko Kavadas having success at the plate: 
"We have elite offensive players. They can carry you when they're dialed in. He's been dialed in other than the first two series last year when I was here. If you look at the numbers in the games since I've been around the guy - I'm not saying it's me that's done anything, but when he's locked in like this, he's dangerous. 

"We work a lot on pitch selection and approach. Rich (Wallace) puts together the video and scouting report data. We show the guys what they should expect to see. We give them some very basic metrics and we hope they have an idea going into this. When you look at (Michael) Kirian and the other pitchers at Louisville, it's deep. They've used 21 pitchers and 11 lefties to this point. Some people don't have four lefties. 

"The matchup stuff is tricky. You just try to give them as much quality data going in. You hope the pitch selection, confidence level, what you see and how you approach it increases through the right data.

"We work hard. I've been doing this 20 years and you hope you find ways to train properly and what you do in the cage and how you take BP and when you have heavy days of hitting. You try to adapt. I hope those things have helped. 

"He's such a talented kid and a tough out -uses the field. There isn't a set way to pitch to him. It's been really impressive." 

On LHP John Michael Bertrand when both were in the Southern Conference: 
"We were playing a Friday night game in 2019. He was starting the game. There was no rain on the radar. There was nothing in the forecast. We got the heaviest mist that I've seen to this day. We were in the bottom of the second inning and he chewed through us in the first inning. We gave up some runs in the first. We got out in the second inning and every ball that rolled through the grass had the rooster tail of water coming up. We couldn't play. We had to shut it down. 

"That guy came back out on Saturday morning and threw the whole game. We picked the game up and he had thrown 25 pitches or something—complete game. The last complete game he had thrown was against me until last Saturday.

"It was the same thing. The guys could never get good pitches to hit sand he used both sides of the plate. I think he's learning to do that at even a higher level. I think his changeup has been in play. He rolls the breaking ball in there with a little slider—total command of what he's doing on the mound. 

"How many games have you seen that end in a pickoff at second base with two outs with a team down three or four runs. He has a great concept of what he's trying to do and you'd never think the guy is brand new to the program and he is - so is (Joe) Sheridan and (Tanner) Kohlhepp. Those guys have been game-changers for us. 

"Bertrand has tremendous pride in everything he does. That goes from being at Notre Dame, taking the ball, doing his conditioning, arm care, controlling the running game, knowing the picks, knowing the bunt defenses - he loves it all. We're so fortunate to have him. It's better to have him pitching for me than against me. That's for sure." 

On Louisville dominating Notre Dame in recent years:
"They probably know and to be honest, I didn't know that it was that significant. You just have to go play. It obviously hasn't been a good matchup for Notre Dame. They're very athletic and run the bases. You can look at our defense, it hadn't been as athletic or maybe as sound defensively. It looked like they found ways to pick Notre Dame apart. I hope we can play cleaner and keep this thing more competitive. 

"They're very balanced. They recruit well. They recruit nationally and have a good reputation. They have a little confidence and swagger. You can see it when you watch. They have elite players. It's a tough matchup for anybody. I hope we match up this year a little better than they have in the past because of the style of baseball we're trying to play. I think we've been better defensively and maybe that makes us a little harder to score on. 

"For the last 15 years, every game I've coached has tremendous significance. I go all the way back to East Carolina. (Scott) Wingo and I talk about it all the time. We knocked them out of a regional at our place. You're battling to host regionals and get to a super regional. At UNCG, we had to play about a near-perfect season to have a chance for an at-large bid. At Auburn, every weekend in the SEC West, those seasons you're going up against basically Major League pitchers when I go back and look at the guys we were dealing with. It was tough. 

"This has that same feel. This team has that same feel. Tuesday night's game was important. Friday's game is going to be important. Saturday's game is going to be important - Sunday. Next weekend. 

"The measuring stick of where you are as a program is really reflected in how important these games become. They are all important. I know we haven't played great against Louisville in the last 10 years. I get that. 

"We just have to go play the best game of baseball we can within the confines of what we do. Our guys need to go approach it that way tomorrow, Tuesday and they need to approach it that way at Clemson and at Pitt. It's not going to stop. These are top-tier programs every single weekend. You have to go every time you walk out there. Period. 

"The games have their own personality. Tomorrow's game will have a different feel than Tuesday's game. Saturday will be different than Friday. You just have to weave your way into how that game is playing out and try to push the right buttons and give the guys the best shot. That's all we can do." 

On defense:
"The pitching and defense goes in hand in hand. The guy on the mound has a lot to do with the quality of pitches and forcing weaker type contact is important. You have a great savvy baseball player in (Jared) Miller. Great feel for the game. That obviously helps in the middle. (Zach) Prajzner is a physical kid and plays the game aggressively. He comes and gets the ball. He has a nice arm. 

"(David) LaManna sets the tone energy-wise behind the play. We've continued to try to help him with basic receiving and playing a clean game back there. It hasn't been as clean as you'd hope, but the energy and effort is really good. 

"Spencer (Myers) is very solid in centerfield. He mans it out there well. 

"I think that's your foundation, but if you really want to be good, I look at what Brooks Coetzee has done in right field. I've coached 25 games here and he has made amazing catches. (Jack) Brannigan at third base - some of the stuff that guy is able to do is remarkable athletically. Probably our fastest guy. Tremendous arm and range. The diving play he made against Duke - the ball he almost dove and caught past our bullpen home plate area - that doesn't happen. 

"Niko being better at first base helps. He's handled some of the trippy throws you're going to get. We worked on it for 15 minutes. All we do is give them throws across the diamond out of our machines that essentially are throwing balls at 80mph to let him work his feet and become more efficient around the bag. He misplayed one Tuesday night where he got caught a little bit early. It was going to be a tough play from Prajnzer. 

"With any of those guys at left field, (Jack) Zyska was centerfielder. (Ryan) Cole was a centerfielder. It's all-around quality and pride in playing good team defense. 

"The old baseball saying is correct. It starts up the middle and it does with us. I just think it also spreads itself to other parts of the field, which has allowed us to do what we've done defensively." 

On the use of analytics and balancing information:
"Every pitch that is thrown on this field, the TrackMan system probably gives you 50 different measurements of information. If you give that to the players, it's over the top for us to digest. The release angle height - there are certain things that cloud you a little bit more. There are things like with the spin rates and if something is an outlier that you're going to see, those are the things we try to give them the info on.

"If the ball has tremendous spin like a Tommy Vail fastball almost felt like it was climbing on you a little bit. They need to know that. If the breaking ball has excessive spin, we need them to know that. The video system and being able to pull out every fastball with a runner on second vs. one of your opponent's pitchers - every pickoff. 

"There is so much data that I always tell our coaches to keep the scouting reports to a 10-minute block. If you can condense it to 10 minutes for the pitchers to hear and 10 minutes for our hitters to hear, I think as a coach, you're giving them the right amount of data. You could spend three hours giving them data. I think it can cloud it. We try to keep it simple, but pull out things that are concrete and standout so they go into the game and know what is normal and what might be something that's a little bit different."

On Louisville being picked to win the ACC and Notre Dame picked 13th and last in the Atlantic:
"It's a reflection of how hard the guys have worked. We've added some players. We weren't able to recruit the whole class, but the transfer guys, we were able to grab those guys. 

"You step back and we have done some things to help grow the program. We're not a finished product. We've got so many things we need to get better at. Arguably our two best pitchers are out for the year. You're looking at some of the things we've endured and it's tough, but you do reflect on where you are at the moment and the guys have tasted what it's like to play well on a consistent basis. 

"You can't just show a glimpse here and there of playing a quality game if you expect to do what we're trying to do in compete for championships. You're proud of the moment and where you've gotten to and you recognize it's going to be difficult this weekend. It's going to be difficult next weekend. 

"You never come up for air, especially when you're in a situation where you're contending to be in the national discussion. You can't come up for air. It's a constant pitch for pitch grind. That's how they need to feel. That kind of keeps you in check. It doesn't mean you're going to win every game, but you hope you dang show up to compete every time." 

On Louisville being aggressive on the bases:
"You try to deal with it from day one. If you have to change what you do because somebody rolls in that runs, you've probably failed to set them up to handle it as it happens naturally. A lot of it is done on the mound. We have to be in a good position to be quick to the plate and our guys are because every time we scrimmage, we try to run. We rarely scrimmage without runners on base. We let the guys sometimes start an inning clean, but after that, there are guys out there and we try to run for two reasons. 

"No. 1 so your pitcher and defense has to handle it and No. 2 so you can steal bases when the time is right for your team. Wish we had a little more raw overall speed. They probably have it. I mean they have a guy, (Levi) Usher, is hitting .226. It's hard to have 14 base hits and 18 stolen bases. 

"You can tell how aggressive some of these guys are and we'll talk about it with our guys. If we have to change what we're doing because of who shows up to play, we've probably come up short in our training for the last year. 

"Dave has done a nice job of throwing and our pitchers have done a pretty good job of managing the run game and varying what they do. Louisville is still going to run, but I think we've put our guys in a good position. They're prepared for it without changing how they feel going through the preparation and your last practice and into the game. You don't want to have a panic sense of who you're playing based on the running game. I don't think we will." 

On students showing up to the game:
"Our bleacher area where the kids sat, it's been pretty neat. I know this is tough. You get to this moment and I feel like if we weren't in the COVID world, this place would be pretty jammed up.

"The word is out. Our students have responded. I think they enjoy being outside. I feel the temps and weather are going to be OK. I hope they come and they can go over and sit by their dugout and they can have some fun over there. That's fine with me. I'm looking forward to it. 

"You do wish the stadium was wide open and people in South Bend could come enjoy this, but hopefully, the students make up for the lack of the general public."  

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