Story Poster
Photo by Matt Freeman
Notre Dame Baseball

Notre Dame Baseball | Three Things

March 20, 2023

Notre Dame baseball (9-8, 2-4) has been on a roller coaster through the first 17 games of the 2023 campaign. Shawn Stiffler’s team has shown the ability to compete with two talent programs in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, but they haven’t quite been able to get over the hump to take an ACC series to this point. 

There have been some positive developments over the last week and if the Irish can clean a few areas up, Notre Dame will have a chance to get on a run moving forward as they will finally open the home schedule this week. 

- Sophomore LHP Jack Findlay made his first start of the season on Sunday and it went as you’d expect. The New Jersey native went 5.2 innings and gave up just two hits, zero runs, zero walks and struck out 10 on 93 pitches. Notre Dame doesn’t have a ton of left-handed arms in the pen, but Findlay is the best pitcher on the roster and the Irish need him to start especially given the inconsistency from the plate. 

Stiffler doesn’t need to use Findlay like John Michael Bertrand, but getting 90 pitches from him will benefit the entire program. Findlay now sits at No. 6 in the ACC in strikeouts with 35 in just 22.2 innings. 

- Freshman RHP Caden Spivey has started to come on over the last week after making his debut from the pen against Georgia Tech. Spivey has now pitched three times and he’s been able to calm the Irish down after entering in some less than ideal situations. The Georgia native has pitched 6.0 innings while giving up just four hits, one run (1 ER), zero walks, six strikeouts and his ERA sits at 1.50. 

If Findlay does become a starter, then Notre Dame may have found someone who can give solid innings in his place. Regardless, Spivey has made a significant move and if he can continue to be consistent, it will give the Irish a boost as others have struggled out of the pen.

- LHP Will Mercer is another veteran that has really put together a nice start to the year. On Sunday, Mercer earned his first save as he went 1.2 innings and didn’t give up a run to Wake Forest while striking out three. Mercer has been consistent and his role seems to fit his game a little more than as a starter. In a year where the pen has been up and down, Mercer and Aidan Tyrell have been extremely consistent. 

-  There is no doubt Notre Dame threw true freshman 2B Estevan Moreno to the wolves and it’s gone as you’d expect for the Illinois native. Moreno, who turned down the MLB, is batting .167 with nine hits, one home run and 8 RBI on the year, but he’s gaining comfort at the plate. Moreno had a nice RBI single on a full count in game one to tie the game. He’s also working the count deeper lately, which is a good sign for him. Moreno will continue to work to get the ball in play as he leads the Irish in strikeouts at 24, but he’s trending up coming out of the first two ACC weekends. In the field, Moreno has been solid as he’s committed just three errors in 16 games and made a few big league plays where you can see what Notre Dame is going to have over the next few years. 

- Catcher Danny Neri has spent the last couple seasons working behind David LaManna and he’s taken the opportunity to start by the horns. Neri leads Notre Dame’s every day plays with a .286 batting average and in home runs with three. It’s been a welcome sight to a lineup that’s struggled. It’ll be interesting to see how the Irish manage him moving forward as he won’t start every game behind the plate, but could they work him into a DH role if he’s not catching? 

- Brooks Coetzee is batting a respectable .267, but the crafty veteran leads the country in hit-by-pitches at 17. It’s quite an accomplishment and there have been a few that he probably leaned into, but it’s a guy who is trying to help his team any way he can and his way is taking one for the team. 

- Notre Dame has to get its DH and left field spot figured out moving forward. DH Nick Juaire is batting .273, but hasn’t recorded an extra-base hit on the year and has just nine total bases. DH and left fielder Jack Zyska missed time with a shoulder injury the first weekend and hasn’t looked like himself since his return. Zyska is batting .080 with just two hits on the year after hitting 13 home runs in 2022. The third name to the puzzle is sophomore DM Jefferson who is batting .185 with five hits, two RBI and just six total bases. 

It’s a tough call as I’m not sure there is an obvious option as all three have struggled along with Vinny Martinez (.107 batting average), who has been used as the DH at times. Right now, Jefferson in left field and letting Juaire and Zyska battle it out for the DH seems to give Notre Dame a little more. Jefferson provides more athleticism in the field and someone who can attack the bases, which is not Juaire or Zyska’s strengths. 

- The Irish will also need to cut down on the self-inflicted wounds in the field. Notre Dame has struggled with two outs as the Irish gave up three runs in that exact situation over the weekend. When playing the No. 4 team in the country, you can’t get away with that and expect to win the series. If the Irish can figure out how to get that final out, Stiffler’s team would be in a much better position moving forward as Georgia Tech and Wake Forest gained momentum in a few two out situations. 

- And yes, the offense is still a concern. Notre Dame has improved and yes, starting the year with 17 road games is a challenge after not practicing outside as much as other programs. Notre Dame doesn’t have home run power, so the key is getting on base and the Irish have struggled to consistently get runners on the bases. The next month will be big for the program as Notre Dame will get games at home and it’s doubtful the Irish see a pitching staff better than Wake Forest. 

- On the bump, Notre Dame needs to get a couple more arms out of the pen going. Matt Bedford needs confidence right now as he proved last year he can pitch at a high level in big moments. He’s struggling right now, but it’s nothing a a couple nice mid-week innings can’t fix. 

Notre Dame needs at last one of Sammy Cooper and Radek Birkholz to find a rhythm out of the pen. Both have stuff that can give the Irish three innings, but both have been inconsistent. The mid-week games moving forward can be a great opportunity for them along with David Lally Jr. and Rory Fox to gain experience.  Vineyard Vines Navy Notre Dame Fighting Irish Bradley Stripe Sankaty Polo

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.