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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame jumps out to early lead, holds on for win over Michigan State

Notre Dame was able to stave off an attempted comeback by Michigan State as it headed to East Lansing, Michigan, to take on the Spartans in its first of two Big Ten matchups this week.

The Irish bats came alive in the second inning, when Notre Dame (14-18, 5-10 ACC) became the first of the two teams to get on the scoreboard.

With the bases loaded and no outs, sophomore first baseman Daniel Jung dropped a single into left field, driving in senior left fielder Alex Kerschner. However, on the play, freshman designated hitter Niko Kavadas tried to score from second but was thrown out at the plate, while Jung and junior right fielder Eric Gilgenbach advanced to second and third, respectively.

The next batter, freshman catcher David LaManna, doubled to left center field, however, plating Gilgenbach and Jung to give the Irish a 3-0 lead after two frames.

The Irish then added to their lead in the top of the fourth, as Gilgenbach took first, drawing a walk on a full count. Jung then singled up the middle, putting runners at the corners. LaManna came through again for the Irish with a sacrifice fly to right field to drive in Gilgenbach, but Jung was thrown out at second trying to advance on the throw home.

Cole Daily followed up the RBI with one of his own: The junior shortstop hit a solo shot to right field, giving the Irish a 5-0 lead.

Notre Dame’s lead only continued to grow, as LaManna walked to lead off the sixth inning. Senior center fielder Jake Johnson rode out an eight-pitch at-bat to also reach base via walk, moving LaManna into scoring position.

The Spartans (9-20, 3-5 Big Ten) pulled freshman southpaw Jesse Heikkinen, as he had already given up another run in the fifth and the Irish had two on base with one out in the sixth, in favor of redshirt-sophomore right-hander Caleb Sleeman. He immediately struck out junior second baseman Nick Podkul, but junior third baseman Matt Vierling doubled down the left field line, plating both Johnson and LaManna to give the Irish an 8-0 lead through six innings.

Irish sophomore right-hander Zack Martin fires a pitch during Notre Dame’s 4-1 loss to Kent State on March 27 at Frank Eck Stadium.
Irish sophomore right-hander Zack Martin fires a pitch during Notre Dame’s 4-1 loss to Kent State on March 27 at Frank Eck Stadium.

However, the Spartans staged a comeback in the next inning, as Irish starter and sophomore right-hander Zack Martin quickly found himself with two runners in scoring position and no outs, prompting Irish head coach Mik Aoki to turn to sophomore right-hander Anthony Holubecki.

The third pitch from Holubecki put a major dent in the Irish lead, however, as Spartans freshman catcher Adam Proctor sent it over the right field wall to make the score 8-3.

A single and an error on Hobulecki put runners on first and second with still no outs. Holubecki was able to force two consecutive outs without allowing the runners to advance, but the next batter — Spartans senior first baseman Zack McGuire — doubled down the left field line, driving in both base runners and bringing the score to 8-5.

The very next pitch by Holubecki cut the Irish lead to just one run, as Spartans redshirt-senior designated hitter Chad Roskelly went deep to left field, driving in McGuire and making it an 8-7 game.

Michigan State’s seven-run inning came to an end, however, with another pop fly after Holubecki was pulled for sophomore right-hander Andrew Belcik.

The Spartans were unable to tie the game in the next inning, as Belcik put them away in a 1-2-3 inning, and both the Irish and the Spartans went up and down in order in the ninth, allowing Notre Dame to successfully fend off the Michigan State comeback attempt.

The Irish now return home Wednesday for their second Big Ten game of the week to take on Northwestern.

The Wildcats (8-17, 1-8 Big Ten) bring with them senior catcher Jack Claeys, who has hit five home runs this season. Junior infielder Willie Bourbon leads the team with 18 runs driven in this season. Freshman outfielder David Dunn touts a .324 batting average, a .529 slugging percentage and a .410 on-base percentage, all leading marks for Northwestern. The Wildcats’ top pitcher is freshman southpaw Quinn Lavelle, who touts a 2.75 earned-run average and a 3-3 record.

First pitch between the Irish and the Wildcats is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium.