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Notre Dame Baseball

Notre Dame on the Bubble, Sets Up Important Durham Trip

May 20, 2023
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Notre Dame baseball needed to take two games from No. 22 Boston College this weekend, but the Eagles made a few more key plays to hold momentum and never let Shawn Stiffler’s group find a rhythm on Friday. 

The Irish will finish the regular season 30-22 overall and 15-15 in ACC, which will put them on the bubble of making the NCAA Tournament, so it’s likely Notre Dame will at least need to win a game (or two) in next week’s ACC Championship in Durham. 

As it relates to the ACC, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame seem to be in a similar situation, while North Carolina could be a close call as well. The Yellow Jackets have dropped two to No. 21 Virginia, while North Carolina has also lost the first two games of its series with Clemson. 

As of Saturday morning, Notre Dame enters the day No. 44 in RPI while Georgia Tech sits at No. 51 despite being five games below .500 in ACC play. 

D1Baseball believes the series loss to Virginia is a “death blow” to Georgia Tech’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but there is still an outside chance for the Yellow Jackets if they win game three on Saturday and then can make some noise in the ACC Tournament. 

Notre Dame is in the “wobbly” category for D1Baseball as the .500 ACC record, but a run in Durham would do wonders for the Irish. 

Now, any of these teams could win the conference tourney and make life easy, but Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, Kansas State, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rutgers, TCU, Texas A&M Texas State, Texas Tech, UC Irvine and USC are the programs fighting for at-large bids with the Notre Dame. 

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It was a tough Friday for Notre Dame, but the best news of the day was Jackson Dennies showed he was healthy during one of the grittiest regular season performances from an Irish pitcher in recent years. Stiffler mentioned the Irish medical team cleared Dennies from a pitch count heading into the weekend, but it was more likely to see the junior throw 50-60 pitches. 

Dennies went 82 pitchers in 5.0 innings giving up just four hits, two runs (2 ER), zero walks and struck out six Eagles. It did start a little rocky as Joe Vetrano took him deep in the first inning, but Dennies then threw four dominant frames.

The Louisiana native will finish the regular season going 44.0 innings with 47 strikeouts and an impressive 2.86 ERA. Dennies’ best role is probably middle relief similar to Alex Rao, but he proved he’s more than capable of being a starter in the ACC this season and his best ball is ahead of him. 

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Freshman RHP Caden Spivey had his first rough outing on Friday as he went 0.2 innings giving up five hits and six runs in game three. Spivey didn’t necessarily seem overwhelmed, but Boston College got rolling and there wasn’t much he could do.

It’s a valuable learning experience for the Georgia native and unfortunately for Spivey, it came on a big stage at the wrong time. 

The decision to leave Spivey in by Stiffler was eerily similar to Notre Dame’s game against North Carolina in March. Notre Dame entered the ninth inning up four runs and Carter Bosch gave up six hits, six runs and one hit batter against the seven batters he faced. 

Friday’s decision to leave Spivey in was questionable, but the Irish didn’t have LHP Will Mercer available. Pitching coach Seth Voltz and Stiffler could have turned to Bosch sooner or even Matt Bedford, but they rode Spivey out before replacing him with LHP Ryan Lynch to match him against a lefty. 

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Zack Prajzner and Carter Putz have been the model of consistency over the last three seasons, but the Irish need Brooks Coetzee III to find some late season magic. The graduate student probably shouldn’t be playing as he broke his hand against Clemson and only missed a week essentially. 

The Irish need a couple more bats to show up in Durham and Coetzee would be the prime candidate as he’s done it before and you almost expect the Illinois native will himself to get a hit despite playing through injury. 

There have been some rumblings third baseman Jack Penney could return sooner than expected, but there has been no official word at this point. The good news was Penney wasn’t in a sling on Friday. If the Irish can get Penney back in any capacity, it would be a significant addition. 

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