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Notre Dame Baseball

Irish take series; 'Mad, hungry' after missing sweep

April 11, 2021

The sweep was there for the taking.

And Notre Dame hasn't had one of those on the Eck Stadium diamond in quite some time.

The Fighting Irish will have to instead settle for the best record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

What coach Link Jarrett saw in the aftermath of Sunday's game – a ticked-off group of players – might lead to even greater things for the Irish in the future.

“It means a lot; these guys, they take care of the little things and they know when there's something that hasn't gone right. It bothers them,” Jarrett said. “I enjoy sitting out there and feeling the sense that they feel how I feel – that you had a chance to win three games in a row against a really good team and you didn't. And they're really down about it.

“Not down, sad. Mad. Hungry to have it not feel that way. If that's a shift in culture, which I would assume it is, it's great. It's great. I don't enjoy the outcome, I don't enjoy watching us do some of the things that are really unacceptable if you're going to win championship-level games. But they recognized what we tried to do, and we're close to playing the way I think we should be playing on all phases.”

Taking two of three games this weekend at home against nationally ranked Georgia Tech, the Irish boosted their 2021 ledger to an impressive 15-6 overall and 14-6 in league play.

By mere percentage points, Notre Dame is the overall leader in conference play; Virginia Tech, another upstart team, is 14-7. The Irish are three games up on Louisville in the Atlantic Division's win column.

Yet Notre Dame took the weekend series from the Yellow Jackets (15-12, 12-9) without multiple key contributors – including staff ace John Michael Bertrand.

The Fighting Irish staged one of the modern-era's best rallies Friday night when they overcame deficits of both 7-0 and 9-6 in a 10-9 come-from-behind win.

On Saturday, Notre Dame walloped Tech, 7-0.

The Yellow Jackets scratched out a 4-2 win.

Notre Dame continues to find new players to step up, in addition to the standard heavy lifting from lineup stars Niko Kavadas, Spencer Myers and Ryan Cole.

It's success now in the face of adversity; it's experience for potentially greater things in the program's future.

“Huge, huge,” Jarrett said. “I can't tell you Friday night, when you have 22 people play in a game, how important that was to me. And you saw guys do some things out there, quite frankly, I hadn't even seen them play here in real games.

“When you're out there on Friday night against a team that's ranked, a top-10 type team, you need to see what they play like and how they react to that kind of setting. It was great, and it's easier to teach.”


Notre Dame remained undefeated in ACC series this season – and since 2019 – despite missing its top starting pitcher, key contributor Jared Miller and versatile Brooks Coetzee.

Per Jarrett, none of those three Fighting Irish players is expected lost for the season. Similarly, Jarrett also doesn't have a specific return date for any of the players.

“He's got basically a sore arm; not bad,” Jarrett said of Bertrand. “We just got the results (Sunday). The medical staff's not really concerned about it. That's all I can go on. Right before the game I was given that info. I have no idea [severity/precise timetable]. We're kind of playing this game one game at a time. We just have to kind of manage it as we go. It's a lot.

“And I don't feel like we're putting anybody in a position that they're not capable (of handling). … Hopefully Bertrand is back sooner than later.”

Position players Coetzee and Miller – who have a combined 26 runs scored in 36 appearances – also are on the mend, per Jarrett.

Notre Dame's second-year coach termed Miller's prognosis “good; it's more soreness to be honest.”

Jarrett said Coetzee is “hurting a little bit, too” and did not have an exact timetable for his return to the Irish's outfield.


Alex Rao and Liam Simon combined to work 4 1/3 innings of relief this weekend for the Irish, allowing just four hits between them, no runs and seeing Rao strike out eight batters in the nine outs he recorded.

If the duo is able to continue to replicate these performances, Jarrett could find himself with a proven roadmap in his bullpen as well as greater flexibility with other arms.

“It's a game-changer, it's a staff, weekend-changer,” Jarrett said. “Rao has shown with that changeup it's really challenging to hit. And he's been pretty consistently in the zone.

“What we've seen out of him is every once in a while the fastball mistake. … Again, just learning in competitive settings. National-type implications how important every single pitch is. We can use (Alex) in any role. Liam, we've seen very good velocity, we've seen a very good slider. Today was more like the Liam we saw, I guess it was Wake Forest and Clemson, he had some very good outings.”

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