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Notre Dame Baseball

Simon says: Sit down, Cavs; Notre Dame rolls on at ACC Tourney

May 27, 2022

A day after clinching the program’s first-ever advancement into the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament’s semifinals, No. 14 Notre Dame showcased Friday at Truist Field that it hardly is content.

The Fighting Irish got another outstanding start, this one from versatile hurler Liam Simon, and enough timely hitting to shut out Virginia, 3-0, in the conclusion of pool play.

“This is a national-type competition that had ramifications for both teams,” said Notre Dame skipper Link Jarrett, who notched his 80th career win atop the program. “You’re in a position to win a championship and you probably have five of those throughout the course of a season.

“You want to give the guys that opportunity but also recognize that may not be the ultimate in this, so it’s how to manage these guys today, knowing you have a chance to win a championship but not overdo it.”

But with its 35th win of the season, 24 of them against ACC and Big Ten foes, against whom the Irish went 6-1, Notre Dame has further wedged itself into discussions for hosting at least an NCAA Tournament regional – and perhaps even more if it continues its precedented ACC run.

“I hope we’re in the hosting discussion,” said Jarrett, who a year ago was vocal in defense of his program after the Irish were unfairly snubbed from being a national seed. “Clearly, as a national seed, you see what we see out on the field. I like the way we’re trending right now.”

Simon continued the Irish’s season-long trend of ace work on the bump. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander mowed through the potent lineup of the Cavaliers (38-17), who managed two hits off the junior in five frames that saw him strike out eight batters and expend just 69 pitches.

“I think this goes back to my focus in the offseason, taking my time through every pitch, not trying to let up and getting it all under control,” Simon said. “It kind of hit me again the past few weeks.”

David LaManna, among the Irish’s most consistent bats all season, thrived in the designated hitter role against Virginia with two hits and two of the team’s three runs. He and freshman Jack Penney were the only Notre Dame batters to notch multi-hit days, with Penney adding an RBI.

Zack Prajzner’s infield-single in the bottom of the second scored LaManna and staked the Irish to a lead they would not relinquish; Penney’s RBI-double in the fourth scored Jack Brannigan, and Prajzner again delivered LaManna in the sixth to cap the scoring.

Notre Dame then got four scoreless innings of relief from Matt Bedford, seldom-used Sam Cooper and then Aiden Tyrell, who worked an unblemished ninth with two strikeouts to notch his first save.

Now, the Irish play Saturday in the ACC semifinals at 1 p.m. against the winner of tonight’s Virginia Tech-North Carolina game.

A year after winning its first-ever ACC regular-season baseball championship, Notre Dame could find itself as ACC Tournament champions with just two more wins.

“You never lose that feeling [of wanting to put more on the resumé,” Jarrett said. “There’s always something you’re trying to do, and our team has responded to that and fought all year. There’s always something you’re grabbing for in this situation, and I feel it is that.

“Are we one of the top teams? I feel like we are. I felt like we were last year, too. That’s not my decision. I’m just proud of these guys.”

Jarrett said All-ACC centerfielder Ryan Cole continues to progress and could be a factor this weekend. Jarrett also likes where the Irish are at with their bullpen, as only Simon and John Michael Bertrand have effectively pitched to max capacity. Austin Temple “is good to go” again this weekend, and could start Saturday or if there’s a championship game appearance Sunday, per Jarrett, depending on matchups.

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