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Notre Dame Baseball

Tuesday Baseball Reflections

June 15, 2021

Notre Dame baseball is back. 

There is little doubt Link Jarrett has the Irish on the cusp of becoming an annual Omaha contender after the Super Regional in Starkville. 

The three-game series against Mississippi State had a little bit of everything and showed where the Notre Dame program stacks up with a program that is now making its third straight trip to the College World Series. 

- You saw how the Irish won the ACC. It’s a gritty team that just keeps coming and coming. As much as Notre Dame probably dreaded the top of the Mississippi State order, the Bulldogs likely dreaded the Irish entire offensive attack as timely hits seem to always come. 

The home run was a key for the Irish during the postseason after not relying on it much throughout the year, so I'm sure that was a welcome surprise. Every team loves extra bases hits, but Notre Dame has been more than happy with singles all year. They've embraced it. They move runners in various ways and find ways to score runs. 

On the flip side, Mississippi State had some big leaguers and they came through when the lights were the brightest. Rowdey Jordan, Tanner Allen and Logan Tanner are guys Notre Dame doesn't have on the roster. It’s not realistic to think Notre Dame should have three of those guys on the roster at this point in the Jarrett era, but that's why a guy like 2021 signee Jaden Rudd is so important for the Irish. 

Rudd is signed, but had a monster senior year and will likely have a decision to make this summer. I think Tanner Allen is a prime example of why Rudd should go to school because he’ll need seasoning and playing in games like the Super Regional will only help him long-term.

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- The pitching wasn’t great for the Irish over the three games, but it’s an area the Irish have had to manage all year. The losses of Tommy Sheehan, Tommy Vail and Christian Scafidi were crushing. Credit goes to Chuck Ristano and Jarrett for maneuvering a tough situation that would have likely crushed many teams. 

John Michael Bertrand turned into Notre Dame’s ace and high-level college pitcher. The experience and maturity have taken his game to a new level. He's not going to blow you away with velo, but he'll hit spots and get ground balls for the best defense in the country. It’s great he’ll be back next year. 

Jarrett said following Monday's game he expects Tanner Kohlhepp to leave after the draft, which will be a huge blow. Kohlhepp was the big league arm for the Irish and while he needs to work on a few things, the MLB will fall in love with the movement on his pitches at that velocity. 

Notre Dame not playing mid-week games hurt the development of the entire rotation. Why Notre Dame didn't reschedule a few more mid-week games is open for discussion as a few were canceled due to COVID and they were limited in who they could play.

Regardless, the Irish pitching rotation was hurt there. Depth couldn’t get fully developed and experience wasn't gained. Would Notre Dame have done better on Monday? I'm not sure, but its two freshman pitchers only got 3.1 innings combined, while three graduate pitchers got nine innings combined.

Now, Notre Dame ran away with the ACC, so it's hard to really say it didn't work, but those players didn't get the development or experience other pitchers did in other programs.

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Notre Dame entered the weekend as the best defensive team in America and that's a large part of why it ran away with the ACC. They didn’t beat themselves and forced opponents to string together hits. The Irish made some phenomenal defensive plays at Dudy Noble, but they also made backbreaking errors they hadn't made all season. 

It's even more remarkable when you consider Jarrett’s comment postgame.

"No one in the infield has ever played these positions until now,” said Jarrett. “We're still learning, but it looks very bright if you want to look at next year right now." 

There is little doubt Notre Dame’s defense is in good hands moving forward regardless of who might return for an extra year, but the chance Jared Miller could return with Zack Prajzner is intriguing.

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What's next? 

Notre Dame will need to figure out which freshmen will be arriving on campus as they will likely be a few that chase the MLB dream in the present. 

I'd also expect the Irish to invade the Transfer Portal to add to its pitching rotation along with adding depth in the lineup. Notre Dame found great success there with Bertrand, Kohlhepp, Joe Sheridan and others, but now the staff has a Super Regional appearance to sell. 

They'll have a solid returning group to build around as there is a chance they could return every starter minus Kavadas. Now, that's somewhat unlikely with attrition and other factors, but the Irish will be set up well for next year. Adding more pitching depth will be the key over the next couple of months. 

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