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Notre Dame Baseball

Fully Jack-ed: Brannigan, Findlay, Penney, Zyska lift Irish

June 5, 2022
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The NCAA leader in come-from-behind wins this season and in front of a record crowd inside its home stadium, Georgia Southern seemingly had late life Saturday night against Notre Dame in the winners’ bracket of the Statesboro Regional.

Then again, the No. 2 seed Fighting Irish are among college baseball’s best at locking down wins; they’ve lost just once this season with a lead after eight innings.

The host and top-seeded Eagles got no follow-up rally; Notre Dame freshman Jack Findlay would have none of it.

Findlay notched the game’s final six outs, and the Irish scored two seventh-inning runs with bases-loaded hit batters in a 6-4 win that moved them within one victory of a second-straight Super Regional appearance.

“Great game. Atmosphere, fantastic,” said Irish skipper Link Jarrett, who once again used his bullpen sublimely and maximized his team’s lineup. “Crowd into it, both teams clearly into it. Proud of the way our guys just continued to grind through.

“(Austin) Temple did a nice job, that was his longest number of pitches at 114. That extended, and we obviously needed it after yesterday. It was critical for us to try to shorten the back-end of the game. He got us a couple innings through the fifth and sixth that were very important to the ultimate outcome of the game.”

With Findlay’s four Ks and pivotal homers from Irish sluggers Jack Zyska, Jack Brannigan and a towering, two-run smash from Zack Prajzner, Jarrett cited his players’ ability to meet the big stage.

“The energy and excitement, when you’re in a game like that, sometimes people do a little more,” Jarrett said.

Notre Dame (37-14) was forced to do more sitting around and waiting, again, before this game ever saw Temple’s first pitch. And the Eagles got the early lead courtesy of Noah Ledford’s no-doubt shot well beyond the right-field wall.

Yet as it has consistently illustrated in Jarrett’s two-plus full seasons at the helm, Notre Dame had the resolve to answer. The Fighting Irish got Zyska’s rocket-blast to even the tally at 1, a hammer-shot that saw an exuberant Zyska draw the ire of the Eagles, and Brannigan’s shot lifted them to a 2-1 edge.

“I don’t think it was anything to do with the teams, just genuine emotion in a really intense game,” Prajzner said.

Eagles skipper Rodney Hennon said of the sequence: “We’ve never played ‘em. No history. Heck we’re, everybody is battling to get to Omaha. They’re playing with some emotion, we’re playing with some emotion. That’s the beauty of college baseball. No issues there.”

Georgia Southern roared ahead with a three-run sixth, but Notre Dame, the home team for a second-straight game, answered in the bottom. Prajzner’s blast to left sailed high and deep, all but lost to the cameras as Eagles left fielder Parker Biederer simply turned and watched the game tied in a single swing.

“Zyska stepped on one, Prajzner hit the ball that really was no doubt,” Jarrett said. “He made some really nice plays at shortstop, second baseman (Jack Penney) made kind of a quirky play late (to bare-hand a grounder for the first out in the ninth).

“(Matt) Bedford got a big punch-out for us. The freshman Findlay, we were trying to navigate the end and that’s as good as his fastball has been. For a freshman to go in that situation, it’s what we needed to do. … He took that thing and went; just very proud of his poise and the way he came in and got two lefties there at the bottom of their lineup.”

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A night after ND hurlers fanned 19 Texas Tech batters, they combined to whiff 13 Eagles (41-19), who now face Texas Tech in Sunday’s 1 p.m. elimination game.

The Irish remain in a commanding position. They need a single win – either Sunday night or in a Monday, winner-take-all affair – to advance to a Super Regional showdown with another uber-talented Southeastern Conference squad. NCAA Tournament overall No. 1 seed Tennessee rallied past upstart Campbell late Saturday night and, like the Irish, sits a single win away from hosting a Super Regional for that program’s second-straight College World Series appearance. 

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