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Notre Dame Baseball

Opportunity awaits: No. 14 Irish face key series at Pitt

April 2, 2021
1,114

For a change, it's not about Notre Dame's winning streak.

Rather, it's about the Fighting Irish ending an losing streak.

With both sets of student bleachers at full capacity and Irish Sports Daily on hand covering the contest in person, No. 14 Notre Dame walked off No. 7 Louisville, 5-3, Saturday at Eck Stadium.

The Fighting Irish would end up having to postpone their Sunday game against the Cardinals, so they split the series and remained undefeated since 2019 in Atlantic Coast Conference series competitions.

Weather has wrecked Notre Dame's initial schedule for this weekend at Pittsburgh, but the series now is set for a three-game set – including a rare Easter Sunday tilt – on the road at the Panthers' home.

Notre Dame remains ranked 14th in the USA Today Coaches Poll; the Panthers have the 28th-most votes this week. Though it split with Notre Dame, Louisville moved up two spots to No. 5 this week.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

GAME 1 SATURDAY: ND LHP Will Mercer (1-0, 6.59 ERA) vs. PIT RHP Mitch Myers (2-3, 2.639 ERA) 1 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

GAME 2 SUNDAY: ND LHP John Michael Bertrand (3-0, 3.21 ERA) vs. PITT RHP Matt Gilbertson (3-3, 3.82 ERA) 3 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

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

CONTRIBUTIONS APLENTY

The Fighting Irish aren't dominant in any one area – except for playing the nation's best defense with a 99.1 fielding percentage – but they get contributions up and down their lineup and throughout their cadre of pitchers.

Consider: 12 different Irish players have scored at least one run this season in just 15 games. Every member of Notre Dame's nine top batters has scored at least six runs; Jared Miller (19), Niko Kavadas (14) and Carter Putz (13) have combined to score 46 of the team's 93 runs.

Seven different Irish pitchers have recorded a win, with Liam Simon 3-0 in 12 innings pitched with a 1.50 ERA. Bertrand has been the innings-eater, working 33 2/3 on the year.

Bertrand has been so remarkably effective but of his stingy approach to base runners. He's allowed just 34 hits/walks in his five starts. That's a 1.01 WHIP.

HEART OF THE MATTER

The Irish's top four hitters all are batting at above .300 on the season. Twelve of Niko Kavadas' 16 base hits have gone for extras – 10 homers and a pair of doubles. Kavadas is averaging a home run every 5.2 at bats on the season. Ryan Cole has homered three times in just 25 trips to the plate, two of them for walk-off wins against Duke and Louisville.

Collectively, of their 88 hits on the season, the Irish have mashed 45 for extra bases.

Staying aggressive on the base paths, they're now 21-for-29 on stolen base attempts.

Following the trip to Pitt, Notre Dame gets another shot to make a statement at home. The Irish host 10th-ranked Georgia Tech April 9-11.

LOOKING AT PITTSBURGH

Pittsburgh, much like Notre Dame, has been one of the most surprising teams in the ACC. The Panthers already have captured series against No. 9 Florida State, No. 7 & Georgia Tech and previously ranked Virginia.

Yet the Panthers last weekend were swept by Virginia Tech. They're not 8-7 in league play, 12-8 overall.

They were picked last in the Coastal Division, just as the Irish were picked last in the Atlantic, and actually received one fewer point overall, 17, than Notre Dame.

Pitt also shares another trait with the Irish: it is led at the plate by a Nico: Nico Popa, who's started all 20 games, compiled a .333 batting average and belted five homers, as well as 29 total hits. All three lead the team.

Closer Jordan McCrum has been lights-out for the Panthers. He's got a 1.80 ERA in 10 appearances, with three saves and a 1-1 ledger. McCrum has fanned 21 batters in just 15 total innings.

Myers and Gilbertson have made a combined 12 starts on the mound for the Panthers and worked a combined 75 1/3 innings. They've fanned 81 batters and allowed just three of the 11 home runs Pitt's staff has surrendered.

 
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