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Notre Dame Baseball

Jarrett, Irish back to work with eyes on postseason prizes

May 19, 2021
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Link Jarrett believes there were at least five previous conference baseball championships his teams clinched for the regular-season title.

None was quite like Jarrett's first at Notre Dame – and the Fighting Irish's first Atlantic Coast Conference championship in baseball of any sort.

Idle last weekend as the school conducted its spring semester final exams, Notre Dame watched all of its nearest competitors in the league's rugged Atlantic Division fall by the wayside.

The Irish (26-10, 22-10 ACC), ranked ninth by the USA Today Coaches Poll, were left standing alone as they prepare for their final regular-season series Thursday through Saturday at Virginia Tech.

But Jarrett wasn't glued to a TV anywhere or a computer gamecast as the events of last weekend unfolded; he was watching his son, J.T., play alongside his North Carolina State teammates at Pittsburgh. Jarrett got the news from Notre Dame's baseball media ace, Matthew Paras.

“I think I've won five regular season titles and most of those, it comes down to something on the field,” Jarrett said Wednesday via Zoom. “This team beat that team and you hit a home run in the eighth inning that won it.

“I was actually, I got to take my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh to watch J.T. As I'm sitting there, Matt's feeding me … 'Coach, Louisville lost. Florida State lost. You guys are now the outright Atlantic Division champions. And Georgia Tech lost.' Things have to go right, but I've never had it happen when your team was in your bye week.”

That the Irish could clinch while taking their mandatory weekend off and concluding exams was testament to the work they already had accomplished through the season's first two-and-a-half months.

“This is a gauntlet of 36 games against 12, 13 teams that have all been ranked in the top 25,” Jarrett said of his first full Notre Dame team's run through conference play. “That's really something you don't see in sports very often but that's what this conference is about. Our guys got through the gauntlet better than anybody else.

“To separate tells you maybe some of those tough games that we pulled victory from the jaws of defeat, that's the only way you can separate. I hope our guys understand the magnitude of what they have accomplished. And there's obviously way more left to do. But nobody can ever take away this team was ACC Atlantic Division champions, the overall, whatever you want to call it, the ACC champion. They separated from the pack and that's very, very hard to do. Especially in a 36-game schedule against the caliber of teams in this league.”

BERTRAND IN COMMAND

Notre Dame ace John Michael Bertrand will be on the mound for the Irish Thursday (6 p.m., ACC Network Plus) in their opener at Virginia Tech (27-20, 16-17).

Jarrett isn't entirely sure the direction his staff will go in the subsequent games of the series (Friday, 6 p.m., ACC Network Plus; Saturday, 1 p.m., ACC Network Plus), but he outlined his strategy of returning Bertrand to the lead spot.

“He's been a consistent, deep-start guy,” Jarrett said. “We need him to have as much bounce-back ability as we can get him. So throwing him (Thursday) seemed like the most logical way to go about it. Obviously we need him to throw well whether he throws Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

“Throwing him Thursday, now you start looking at, the second championship you can win is your conference tournament championship.”

Bertrand has averaged nearly 6 2/3 innings across the landscape of his 10 starts this season, compiling a 6-1 ledger with a 3.02 ERA.

“The conference tournament is far different than what these 13 weeks of the regular season look like,” Jarrett said. “As you turn your attention to how do you win the ACC Tournament, because you've been the outright winner in this league, you feel pretty good about your chances to be in a regional. Hosting it, I don't know how they're going to get to that final determination. But, we won the league.

“So then you start looking at the third championship is a regional championship. Lining yourself up in this weekend, knowing that you want to play well and you want to win the series, then you look at championship No. 2 and 3 and how do you best line up your personnel to give you the opportunity to continue to add onto your championship resume.”

Jarrett did say Will Mercer, who's made 14 appearances including eight starts, was still working through some soreness. The rest of the Irish pitching staff was in good form.

SCOUTING TECH

Gavin Cross is a problem. He's among the most dangerous hitters in the ACC, as evidenced by his .370 batting average on the strength of 68 hits. Twenty-nine of those knocks have gone for extra bases, including his team-best 11 home runs.

T.J. Rumfield is batting .319 with seven homers, and Kevin Madden has a team-best 37 RBIs to accompany his .317 batting average.

“Good power, good balance. They're a little left-handed hitting dominant,” Jarrett said of the Hokies' lineup. “I don't have their starting pitching rotation. They have thrown a lefty that's over the top with a big breaking ball. Not a ton of velocity. Pretty sound defense, but I think they're more oriented on banging that thing around a little bit.

On the mound, the Hokies have a staff ERA of 4.71 and are paced from their starting rotation by junior right-hander Anthony Simonelli. He's 5-1 on the year and has worked five or more innings in eight starts.

Simonelli's past three starts have been his most effective, as he's worked 21 2/3 innings against Virginia, Toledo and Duke.

Tech pitchers have struck out 510 batters in just 413 innings on the season.

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Jarrett, Irish back to work with eyes on postseason prizes

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