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Notre Dame Baseball

After near no-hitter caps Cambria title, No. 3 Irish ready for ACC play

March 7, 2022
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The wins have come from de facto mercy-ruled romps and nail-biting finishes.

But through its first nine games, the wins have been delivered eight times by third-ranked Notre Dame, which polished off a trio of Big Ten foes over the weekend in Minnesota’s Cambria Classic at U.S. Bank Field.

The Fighting Irish (8-1) were tested a much greater variety than in opening weekends during warm-weather tournaments at Stetson and Fluor Field, where they powered through three wins against Monmouth and Marist.

Now, coming off a 6-1 win against Illinois, 2-1 against Michigan State and 3-1 against the host Golden Gophers, Notre Dame gets a midweek game Tuesday at Elon before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend at No. 25 North Carolina State.

The Irish are unquestionably leaning right now on a starting pitching rotation that’s allowed a mere six earned runs in 53 innings – a 1.02 ERA from the trio of Aiden Tyrell, John Michael Bertrand and Austin Temple.

“I like where our starting pitching is,” third-year ND coach Link Jarrett told Irish Sports Daily. “I’m not pleased offensively with the consistency. I’ve seen flashes, really, I’ve seen us do everything. But just not consistently.

“Defense, I’ve been very pleased with that. But I expected us to defend well. The surfaces have been really nice. Stetson, Fluor Field, and on the turf at U.S. Bank, we should defend well there. And NC State traditionally also is a very nice playing surface.

“I don’t know bullpen-wise, yet. We’ve got Will Mercer, who we feel good about. Got (Jack) Brannigan back out there, feel good there. Radek Birkholz, Roman Kimball, Jack Findlay, how the bullpen matures and settles into roles, I can’t answer that yet. I like the pieces. (Sunday against Minnesota) it lined up and you could put the puzzle piece together for Mercer with the heavy left-handed lineup of Minnesota. Learning what these guys look like in these games is a key piece. I’m just really impressed by the way these guys show up and go to work.”

WEEKEND RECAP

Notre Dame 6, Illinois 1

The Fighting Irish saw Tyrell scatter six hits across five innings, allowing just one run, and the bats and the bullpen took care of the rest.

Alex Rao worked three innings of scoreless relief and Jack Brannigan polished off the victory with a scoreless ninth.

In the batter’s box, Brooks Coetzee III and TJ Williams belted solo home runs that paired with two-run hits from both Spencer Myers and Jared Miller.

Notre Dame 2, Michigan State 1

Though it notched just two hits, Notre Dame’s offense made them timely enough in a game that needed all of Bertrand’s seven innings of one-run, four-strikeout work. Williams doubled and scored the game’s first run and Brannigan vaulted ND atop to stay with his seventh-inning solo blast.

Ryan McLinskey earned the save, his second, after he worked two scoreless frames and fanned four.

Notre Dame 3, Minnesota 1

The Irish scored in the first inning, added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings and got such a dominant performance from Temple that Jarrett admitted he had studied Temple’s pitch count against his potential to keep intact the no-hitter.

“Temple had those two breaking pitches, an over-the-top down curveball, velocity was good, I started thinking through no-hit situations and how many pitches we were comfortable letting him throw. There was a lot going on in the game within the game and the opportunity to maybe throw a no-hitter.”

Alas, Minnesota catcher Chase Stanke just nudged out a solo home run that stood as the only hit against the Irish in Sunday’s Cambria Classic finale.

The tandem of Temple and Mercer combined for nine innings of one-hit, 12-strikeout work. In his season debut, Mercer whiffed three in two innings of work to earn the save.

COMING UP

The Irish are flying to Raleigh, N.C., Monday afternoon, now more than 60 hours’ deep into travel on the season because the school does not use charter flight services for the baseball team.

On Tuesday, Notre Dame battles Elon in a tune-up before ACC play unfolds Friday against the Wolfpack, who entered the season picked among the teams expected to challenge for an ACC title and potentially deep postseason run.

Notre Dame will be the third ACC foe faced by Elon; the Phoenix fell 5-1 last month at North Carolina and dropped a 10-2 decision March 1 at Wake Forest. 

Though State is led in hitting by JT Jarrett, Link Jarrett’s son, with a .591 clip in seven starts, the younger Jarrett has been nursing a sore hamstring and his status this weekend is questionable.

The Irish are deep in their starting pitching, still filling out bullpen roles and Jarrett continues to work to find the right blend of returning veterans and highly talented newcomers in the lineup.

“The guys are confident with what they’re doing,” Jarrett said. “We know offensively we’ve got to be a little bit more dynamic. TJ Williams, when you watch him practice every day like we obviously do, he is a fantastic center fielder that can really, really throw, goes and gets it into the wall, comes and gets ball and throws it well. Getting him an opportunity to start some games is really good.

“Spencer has been a phenomenal player his whole career in this program, was really clutch last year during our run, and we recognize that and are trying to let him work through where he is right now.(batting .129 in nine starts). DM Jefferson we’ve seen is an impactful left-handed bat, Joey Spence settles in as another left-hand bat, Jack Penney, that’s another good infielder and left-handed bat. I think all will help our offense, I feel like, in time.”

 
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