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Notre Dame Baseball

Irish seeking more: Notre Dame eyes key weekend at Boston College

April 22, 2021
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College baseball's coaches voting in the weekly USA Today Coaches Poll seem disinclined to move up Notre Dame in their weekly rankings.

No matter. The Fighting Irish aren't moving from their perch as one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's – and therefore college baseball's – best teams in 2021.

Notre Dame remains No. 12, per the USA Today poll so longstanding in ACC standards, but it is taking a backseat to no team in terms of league wins (16) – one better than Coastal Division leader Virginia Tech and two more than No. 9 national power Louisville, which rests mere percentage points ahead of the Irish in the Atlantic Division at 14-6.

The Irish (18-7, 16-7) also continue to lead the nation in best fielding percentage.

“It's been a focal point, and I told you guys from Day 1 we had to get better at that,” second-year ND coach Link Jarrett said. “If you look back, that had been a weakness and we needed to flip that and turn it into a strength.

“Being hard to score on is a characteristic of an elite team. We have to figure out the offensive piece; we still haven't been great. We've been better at times, but if you can contain the people you're playing, and make it hard for them to score, you're in good shape.”

PROBABLE PITCHERS

GAME 1 FRIDAY: ND LHP WILL MERCER (1-0, 6.00 ERA) vs. EMMETT SHEEHAN (3-3, 4.82 ERA) 5:30 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

GAME 2 SATURDAY: ND LHP JOHN MICHAEL BERTRAND (3-1, 3.55 ERA) vs. RHP MASON PELIO (3-4, 6.96 ERA) 3 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

GAME 3 SUNDAY: TBD vs. TBD, 12 p.m., ACC NETWORK EXTRA

ROTATION SET, PEN MIGHTIER

Jarrett himself notes that the Fighting Irish rotation hasn't enjoyed a bevy of innings-eaters this season. Aside from Bertrand, Joe Sheridan – as long reliever – is Notre Dame's most-utilized pitcher at 30 innings.

Bertrand is back in the fold after nearly two weeks away from the mound due to arm soreness, and he's starting Game 2 Saturday for the second week in a row. Bertrand is key for the Irish's pitching management between the starters and the bullpen in their weekend sets.

“It wasn't sharp, but I think when he went out there and he really hadn't throw in 12 or 13 days, so you miss that start, the weeks roll on,” Jarrett said of Bertrand. “He wasn't sharp, but he felt OK. My biggest concern was the next day because at Pitt (April 4, when Bertrand threw 7-plus innings of three-hit ball in a no-decision), he threw great but he didn't feel good the next day. That's when this got him a little bit.

“So he felt fine, felt fine this week and I would hope that we would see a little bit more of the crispness and command that we're accustomed to seeing.”

Notre Dame rarely this season has had multiple bad innings or seen its pitchers let tough luck affect their performances. Jarrett ties that approach together with the Irish defense.

“The pitching and the defense kind of goes hand in hand,” Jarrett said. “The biggest thing is throwing effective strikes and pitching with some attack mentality, but also allowing your defense to help you out a little bit. And I think that's what we've seen.

“The pitching and defense always work in harmony, and you need to be good in both to be elite. That goes to starting pitchers and relievers. Some of our relievers have been very effective, and we're going to continue to use them like we've used them.”

Jarrett also provided valuable insight into the Notre Dame mindset on the mound.

“There's no secret formula; we just preach multiple pitches for strikes,” Jarrett said. “We try to move the fastball around. We really try to control the running game just to throttle the other team down where that's not a weapon they can use against us.

“There have been some good weapons down there with (Tanner) Kohlhepp, Sheridan. Those three have been difference-makers for us, Bertrand, Kohlhepp, Sheridan.”

SCOUTING THE EAGLES

If the Fighting Irish are the most surprising group in the ACC – perhaps all of college baseball – from a standpoint of winning, Boston College might its most underperforming.

Jarrett said he believed the Eagles were the pick of some prognosticators to be perhaps the league's best team and a College World Series contender. Instead, they're winning less than one out of every four league games going into this weekend set against Notre Dame.

Sal Frelick and Luke Gold power the BC offense; both batters are operating at .325 or batter at the plate.

Gold, despite missing four games, paces the Eagles with eight home runs and 33 RBIs – both team bests. Frelick leads the team with a .355 average, 50 hits, 35 runs scored and 78 total bases.

Charlie Coon is the Eagles' most effective reliever with 14 appearances resulting in 31 strikeouts in just 23 innings.

Sheehan's 52.1 innings leads the team; he's struck out 68 batters.

 
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