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Notre Dame Baseball

Senior send-off: Jarrett praises Irish vets; Notre Dame eyes ACC title

May 15, 2022
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The scenarios aren’t quite endless, but almost.

No. 8 Notre Dame, after taking two of three games this weekend from visiting Atlantic Coast Conference foe Pittsburgh, enters the final week of the regular season in contention for everything from the league’s Atlantic Division crown to its overall title.

But Sunday’s 5-2 loss means the Fighting Irish (31-11, 15-9) have less margin for error and more work to be done. They visit Northwestern Tuesday in a non-conference tilt, fly to Miami Wednesday and close their season with a three-game set against the ACC-leading Hurricanes (37-14, 18-9) Thursday through Sunday.

Third-year Notre Dame coach Link Jarrett, who on Friday night notched his 75th career win atop the program, doesn’t shrink from the conversation.

“We talk about it a lot,” Jarrett said of discussing the title opportunities with his players. “The Sundays, as the stakes increase in the program and in the season, the Sundays become more important.

“We talked about it today a little bit. If you want to be in the conversation to do the things that we want to do, then these Sundays and you have to be in the discussion to win your division and win the ACC to be in the national position. They know it. That’s why they were very upset with this, you know every inning of these things have ramifications for all of that.”

While there probably are too many permutations to compute each one, this much is evident: Notre Dame enters the final week a half-game up on Louisville atop the Atlantic Division standings; it can clinch that half of the ACC and position itself to possibly win the league at Miami.

The Fighting Irish need to sweep the Canes to have any chance of repeating as overall ACC champs – the road-sweep now a necessity after failing to sweep Pitt in Sunday’s home finale.

“Now you’ve got to go down there and do more,” Jarrett said. “I don’t know what we’re going to have to do, to be honest with you; I don’t really look at it. I know we’re in the conversation to win something and that means a lot.

“When you’re having that conversation with a team, or trying to decide if you should or not, you know the program’s in good shape and the guys are into what you’re trying to do every single day. We’re right where we want to be, whether we win it or not, I can’t tell you. But they’re prepared to run at it.”

SENIORS SEND-OFF

Notre Dame won yet another weekend ACC series, continuing its run of unprecedented success under Jarrett.

If the Irish aren’t selected as a host for opening-round games next month in the NCAA’s Road to Omaha – and Irish officials confirmed last week to Irish Sports Daily their intent to again bid to host in the postseason – then the weekend against Pitt marked the end inside Eck Stadium for John Michael Bertrand, Ryan Cole and perhaps as many as 15 Notre Dame seniors and graduate students.

That number also does not include other draft-eligible Irish, Jack Brannigan among them.

“Well, the transition and the buy-in of the older guys. It starts with the older guys. If you have the older guys that start to understand the buy-in and what you’re trying to do, it filters right down to the young guys,” Jarrett said. “The young guys are going to look to the older guys. These are exceptional players, these are exceptional kids. What we demand of them in that classroom and in this conference, the travel that they have to endure, is very unique. Us and Pitt and Boston College probably have to deal with that and I don’t know that anybody else in the country deals with that kind of travel demand. Then you pile the academic stuff on top, so you’ve got some exceptional, world-class student-athletes and obviously great people.

“They made this work for me. If they don’t take a grasp of what we’re trying to do, in between coaching switches, they have to grasp this and go do it, and they have. They’re special; they’ll always hold a special place for me. When you walk in somewhere new, it’s not that you recruited them. But they were here, and they jumped into what we were doing.”

MILLER’S TIME?

Jared Miller, a hero in a recent win with a grand slam and among the top fielders for the Irish’s defense that ranks among the NCAA’s best, suffered a dislocated shoulder in Saturday’s win against Pittsburgh.

The graduate-student and second baseman from Marietta, Georgia, is out indefinitely – but Jarrett isn’t yet declaring Miller’s career over.

“Miller, we’ll see how that shoulder is … it popped out,” Jarrett said. “I thought it was a wrist; I guess that would be worse. They got it (the shoulder joint) back in there. They’ll MRI him just to make sure there’s no structural damage. If he’s OK, then he’ll be able to work back into this eventually.

“It’s not like he’s going to be ready, I don’t think, this weekend, but I don’t think it’s like a season-ending (injury). How comfortable is he playing? We’ll see.”

Freshman Jack Penney was inserted to replace Miller after he was injured Saturday, and Penney responded with three hits in six official at-bats across the final two games, including a two-run home run Sunday that served as Notre Dame’s only offense.

“Penney’s a good, young player,” Jarrett said. “I think I talked to you guys about him early on, he’s got some good skills. He’s a good infielder. And the left-handed bat, when it’s in there.

“Penney, you know, he’s a savvy player and he’s physical. His extra-base hit ratio is pretty good. So I’m happy with everything he does. He’s a good base-runner.”

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