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Notre Dame Baseball

Surging Notre Dame seeks to halt Cardinal rule

March 25, 2021
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Notre Dame ran its winning streak at the time to an impressive seven games in a row – all in Atlantic Coast Conference play – and made coach Link Jarrett a victor – at last – in his long-awaited home debut as the skipper of the Fighting Irish.

In the process, Notre Dame won another weekend series, taking two of three from visiting Duke, and climbed further in the national rankings this week in advance of a monumental showdown set for Eck Stadium.

Baseball America's No. 14 Fighting Irish (10-3, 9-3 ACC) host No. 7 Louisville (15-5, 7-2) beginning Friday at 4 p.m.

The Cardinals enter the three-game weekend set with a consensus top-seven ranking among all the national polls and as arguably the ACC's premier program of the past 15 years. Since his arrival, Dan McConnell has led the program to more overall wins than any team in college baseball and semi-resident status at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

"The measuring stick of where you are as a program is really reflected in how important these games become,” Jarrett said Thursday during a Zoom with reporters. “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 (Friday). … 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.”

Probable Pitchers:

GAME 1 FRIDAY: L LHP Michael Kirian (4-0, .77 ERA) vs. ND LHP Joe Sheridan (0-0, 0.00 ERA) 4 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

GAME 2 SATURDAY: L TBD vs. ND LHP John Michael Bertrand (3-0, 3.38 ERA) 2 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

GAME 3 SUNDAY: TBD vs. TBD, 1 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

CALL TO ARMS

With Jarrett after the Duke series sharing that Tommy Sheehan was not expected to pitch again this season, and left-hander senior Tommy Vail having already been lost for the season, the Irish are still piecing together both their starting rotation and bullpen roles.

The Irish have used 13 different pitchers through their first 13 games. Sheridan is getting his first start in the opener against the Cards after having been almost untouchable out of the bullpen.

The Central Florida transfer has worked 14 1/3 innings without allowing a run and whiffed 11.

In the middle game of the series, Bertrand is set to take the mound after emerging as the Irish's most consistent innings-eater among starters. He's worked 26 2/3 innings, is coming off a complete-game effort and has fanned a team-high 22 batters.

Jarrett's prepared to use any and all available arms.

"Our strength overall is probably the depth,” Jarrett said. “Maybe not the top-end elite starting (hurlers), 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."

KING KAVADAS

The hero in Notre Dame's home-opener last Friday with a pair of two-run blasts that helped the Irish ultimately prevail 6-4 in 13 innings, senior slugger Niko Kavadas has now climbed to the nation's No. 2 spot in home runs with nine through 13 games.

For some perspective: Kavadas now has 16 bombs in his last 26 games for the Irish. That's 16 home runs in his last 101 at bats – an average of a blast every 6.3 trips to the plate. He also leads the team with 23 runs batted in.

A former standout player himself at Florida State, Jarrett is sufficiently impressed with his All-American from nearby Penn High School.

“He's been dialed in other than the first two series last year when I was here,” Jarrett said. “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 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.”

Yet Kavadas, right now, also is an equally difficult scout.

“He's such a talented kid and a tough out – uses the (entire) field,” Jarrett said. “There isn't a set way to pitch to him. It's been really impressive."

LOOKING AT LOUISVILLE

Where to begin? The Cardinals' numbers at the dish and on the mound are, frankly, rather daunting.

Widely viewed as among the nation's most talented teams alongside the likes of Vanderbilt and other SEC powers, Louisville has seen its pitchers tally 199 strikeouts in 177 innings with a sub-3.60 staff ERA.

Offensively, the Cardinals have six batters with 10 or more RBIs – including Henry Davis' team-leading 25. That's tied for third in the ACC and 16th nationally.

Louisville has 22 homers as a team and 66 total extra-base hits, as well as a .298 team batting average.

 
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