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Notre Dame Baseball

Notre Dame Baseball Thoughts | Opening Weekend

February 20, 2023

Notre Dame baseball had high expectations entering the season following last year’s run to Omaha and the hiring of Shawn Stiffler from VCU. 

The 43-year-old never had a losing season at VCU, so while there will be disappointment coming out of the opening weekend as Notre Dame dropped the series to Lipscomb, but it’s hardly time to panic as there are 50+ games to play. 

Lipscomb taking the series was a bit of a shock, yet Notre Dame had some positives coming out of the weekend, including getting young player valuable experience. 

Game 1: Lipscomb 5 Notre Dame 4
Game 2: Notre Dame 8 Lipscomb 4
Game 3: Lipscomb 4 Notre Dame 2

The Good 
Notre Dame’s resurgence in college baseball started with pitching and it should be the focus of any staff in the blue and gold as the Midwest weather is always unpredictable. The Irish got quality innings from its veterans and were able to work in transfers and freshmen over the course of the weekend. 

It certainly seemed like pitching coach Seth Voltz and Stiffler had a plan for the rotation heading into the weekend as they kept the pitch counts down. 

LHP Aidan Tyrell (1-0) gave Notre Dame four big innings on Saturday out of the pen. The fifth-year-senior went 4.0 innings while not allowing a hit and struck out three. Junior RHP Matt Bedford also gave the Irish strong innings in relief as he finished Saturday’s win going 2.0 innings while giving up just one hit, one walk and striking out two.  

On Sunday, LHP veteran Will Mercer came in during the fourth inning and pitched two innings of one-hit baseball while striking out four and walking one. 

It was a good sign for Notre Dame Bedford and Mercer gave solid outings as both were coming back from offseason surgeries. 

 Jackson Dennies got the first start of his career on Sunday and impressed as he went three innings and gave up just two hits, no runs and struck out five. 

Voltz went with two freshmen to close out game three, which didn’t end up well as they gave up the game-winning runs, but Rory Fox and David Lally Jr. showed positive traits. Fox wasn’t rattled coming in with a 2-1 lead in the eight and threw strikes. He has an effortless motion and expect a very solid career from him over the next few years. 

Lally was the star of the class and replaced Fox with two runners on. He did give up the game-tying hit and then it wasn’t his fault the relay throw went into the dugout and the umpires allowed the runner to advance to push the lead to two. The Michigan native then struck out a Lipscomb batter to end the inning. 

High-pressure situations and crucial learning moments for both freshmen. Sure, it would have been great if Notre Dame escaped with the win, but those experiences are critical for both players as they’ll be counted on over the course of the season. 

Notre Dame’s pitchers allowed Lipscomb to bat just .176 and struck out 31 batters while walking 13. Giving up 13 runs on 15 hits will also work most weekends if the Irish offense can find contact. 

Defense has been a staple over the last three years and Notre Dame continued that over the weekend by committing just two errors. Sophomore third baseman Jack Penney couldn’t quite come up with a hot grounder on third and then left fielder Casey Kmet had a throwing error in game three, which was part of the game-winning run. 

Freshman Estevan Moreno made a couple really nice plays at second base and it’s easy to see why he’s starting early in his career. Zack Prajzner is about as solid as they come at shortstop as he makes defense look effortless. 

Graduate student Brook Coetzee might hold a batting average of just .125, but he made sure to do everything possible to get on base this weekend. Coetzee was hit by a pitch four times and walked once. In fact, Coetzee was hit three times on Saturday alone. Ryan Cole had a knack for getting hit and Coetzee seems to have learned a few lessons from his former teammates. 

The Bad
Friday starter Blake Hely got off to a rough start on a 38-degree day as the grad transfer gave up three runs in three innings on four hits and three walks. 

On Saturday, sophomore Radek Birkholz pitched three scoreless innings but got into trouble in the top of the 4th as he gave up three runs. 

Notre Dame will need better outings from its starters moving forward, especially from Hely as he struggled to find the strikezone for most of the day. Birkholz is still a young player and like the freshmen, he can build off three good innings of work. 

Sophomore LHP Jack Findlay didn’t get the starting nod this weekend, but made his first appearance of the season in game one. Findlay looked like the freshman All-American at times as he struck out seven in three innings, but he hit three batters and then walked three. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is one of the last players to worry about, but he’ll need to clean it up moving forward as no pitcher can allow six free runners. 

The Ugly
Notre Dame recorded 10 hits in three games. 

It was ugly at the plate for the Irish in all three games. In games two and three, Notre Dame did find a little more contact to put the ball in play, but the Irish have to find a way to turn it around and quickly. 

Notre Dame batted .110 for the weekend with two doubles and two home runs. Lipscomb was responsible for a significant number of the runs as passed balls and wild pitches were a significant issue for the Bisons all weekend. 

Perhaps the most concerning piece is the Irish struck out 35 times in three games. Now, Notre Dame isn’t a team that is expected to put up huge offensive numbers as it’s a similar makeup to last year’s squad. It’s an offense that will need single opponents to death while working for walks and staying aggressive on the base paths.

The last impression of Link Jarrett’s aggressiveness on the bases isn’t a fair measuring stick as what the Irish had to do in Tennessee wasn’t normal by any means. Notre Dame stole two bases on two attempts, (both play Jack Penney) so it will be something to monitor moving forward. It’s not a team with a ton of speed as TJ Williams is the only other name that immediately comes to mind as a no-brainer as it relates to steals. 

Notre Dame has just two players batting .200 as DH Nick Juaire and catcher Danny Neri are right at .200. Every other Irish player is below .200 with Williams being third on the team at .182. 

Fifth-year senior Jack Zyska started as Notre Dame’s lead-off all three games and started two games in left field, but his health is something to watch moving forward. Zyska made a diving catch in game three and had to be replaced by Casey Kmet shortly after. 

Notre Dame will travel to UNC-Greensboro next weekend for a three-game series. The series was set to matchup Link Jarrett up with his former school, so the trip to Greensboro lost quite a bit of luster on both ends. 

UNC-Greensboro (1-2) lost its opening series to Northeastern over the weekend and will host Wake Forest for a mid-week game on Tuesday. 


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