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Notre Dame Baseball

Virginia bashes Notre Dame out of ACC; Irish hoping to host NCAAs

May 28, 2021

Scarcely ever this season has a single inning defined, let alone doomed, Notre Dame.

It happened Friday at an fairly inopportune time for the Atlantic Coast Conference's regular season baseball champion.

The Fighting Irish saw ace John Michael Bertrand rocked on his heels in the second inning of their Pool A finale against Virginia, three dingers and five runs the damage on the scoreboard, and Notre Dame never threatened in a 14-1 loss that its ACC exit at Charlotte's Truist Field.

“This was brutal,” said second-year Irish coach Link Jarrett, earlier this week tabbed as the ACC Coach of the Year. “Not one person in our program enjoyed one second of that game. I told them you have to learn from it and let that frustration fuel you the next time that scoreboard's on again and it counts.”

There will definitely be a next time for Notre Dame.

Now, Notre Dame awaits Monday's NCAA Road to Omaha selection show (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2) to learn its postseason fate; the Irish (30-11) are assured entrance into the postseason but must wait to see if and or how long – Regionals and Super Regionals – they could be poised to host games at Eck Stadium.

“You hope that we're a host site; that's a reward,” Jarrett said. “To host something like this, everybody in the country knows how consistent and how well you've played.

“I feel like we've earned the right to have the regional at Notre Dame. I do.”

Added Zack Prajzner, the Irish shortstop who flourished this week with six hits in seven at-bats, “We did everything we could so far this season to prove that we're one of best teams in country. We firmly believe that. I hope (the NCAA Selection Committee) shows that as well.”

After sweeping Virginia on the road as part of its early-season tear in league play, Notre Dame saw its chances shattered in the second frame. Bertrand, who mostly cruised through the opening frame in just 13 pitches, was chased after 18 pitches in the second frame that included three homers for the Cavaliers (29-22), a double and a hit batter.

Nic Kent and Alex Tappen hammered two-run blasts in the frame; Jake Gelof added a solo shot.

It was the first outing for Bertrand since his dominant performance eight days ago in the opening game of the regular-season ending series at Virginia Tech and the shortest of his first year in the Irish program.

Only Notre Dame's April 23 loss at Boston College – a 10-0 shutout – remotely approached the depths of the Irish's pitching and hitting woes of this day. The Irish lineup compiled 15 strikeouts that included seven from the 3-4-5 hitters.

Cavs hurler Andrew Abbott overpowered the Irish through 6 1/3 innings of scoreless work. The southpaw, widely regarded as a top 100 Major League Baseball prospect for July's draft, scattered five hits and fanned nine.

Danny Neri helped the Irish avoid just their third shutout in Jarrett's 44 games atop the Notre Dame program with a two-out single to right that scored Alex Brait in the last half of the ninth.

Though opportunistic and able to generate big innings across the regular season, Notre Dame must get its offense revived for the next leg of the postseason – particularly All-ACC first baseman Niko Kavidas.

The senior slugger was 0-for-7 with seven strikeouts in the two games of the ACC Championship; he's fanned more than 20 times in the last seven games after carrying the Irish offense through the first couple months of the season.

“Niko's been, pitch-selection wise, a little bit out of sorts,” Jarrett said. “And that's what happens, especially to some of your power-type guys. Sometimes you're chasing pitches that might be a little bit out of the zone and get yourself mentally in a state where you're taking some pitches that you should hit.

“I think that's what's happened.”

Bertrand, Kavadas and all have more left in their season. The ACC radio broadcast on Sirius XM made multiple references to the Irish hosting a series in next weekend's regional play. It remains to be seen if this loss prior to the semifinals could wipe out the excellence of Notre Dame's regular season in terms of a top-eight seed and ability to host the two roads prior to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Prajzner expects the Irish to quickly bounce back.

“A ton of confidence,” he said. “We've lost the first game of a series multiple times and come back to win the next two. Swept a couple doubleheaders to win series; we know that we're a very resilient team, very tough team and this isn't going to keep us down at all.”

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