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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Irish fall to UVA in split series

Notre Dame fell to Virginia in a split home series this weekend. After the Irish (12-17, 7-8 ACC) opened Friday night with a victory, Virginia (19-13, 8-7 ACC) won two-straight games in a Saturday double-header to take the series.

In the first game of the series, after a quick first inning in which only three players batted for each team, senior second baseman Jake Singer grounded out but managed to drive home sophomore third baseman Niko Kavadas to give Notre Dame the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. One inning later, Kavadas hit a two-run RBI double that gave the Irish a 3-0 lead.

In the fourth inning, wild pitches by Cavaliers’ senior right-handed pitcher Grant Donahue put Singer in great scoring position on third base. Sophomore catcher David LaManna then recorded an RBI single as Singer scored. The Irish would go on to load the bases and freshman right-fielder Jack Zyska hit a sacrifice fly that allowed LaManna to score and gave Notre Dame their final run of the day and a 5-0 lead.

Alexis Hernandez | The Observer
Irish sophomore third baseman Niko Kavadas digs in at the plate during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Virginia on April 5 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Although the Irish didn’t score for the remainder of the game, stellar pitching by sophomore left-handed pitcher Tommy Sheehan, who pitched all nine innings and gave up only nine hits and two runs, led Notre Dame to the 5-2 victory.

“Just warming up before the game, [the coaching staff] said my stuff was working well, so I tried to use that fastball and locate that, and just went through the game with that pitch,” Sheehan said of his performance.

On Saturday, the Cavaliers found their rhythm in a high-scoring contest to start the day. The Irish looked to be off to another fast start after posting three runs in the first inning. However, Virginia responded with seven unanswered runs over the course of the next five innings. In the bottom of the seventh, freshman designated hitter Carter Putz singled to left field, allowing Zyska to score and senior right-fielder Eric Gilgenbach to add another unearned run on an error.

After Virginia scored another run in the top of the eighth inning, Notre Dame continued to close the gap with a pair of sacrifice flies by Zyska and junior first baseman Daniel Jung that drove home Jake Singer and sophomore shortstop Jared Miller, bringing the score to 8-7. It was too late for Irish though, as Virginia scored four more runs in the ninth inning and shut down Notre Dame’s comeback bid to take the first game of the double header 12-7. The Irish struggled on the mound as they used five different pitchers who combined for eight earned runs and eight batters walked.

Just under 50 minutes later, Notre Dame looked to take the decisive game of the series and had yet another strong start on a Kavadas three-run homer in the bottom of the third, but Virginia maintained their composure and rode the momentum from the previous game. The Cavaliers scored six unanswered runs in the final three innings.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Irish managed to cut the lead to 6-5 off a Zyska two-run RBI single and were poised to score with two men on base and Gilgenbach, the team’s second-leading home run hitter, at the plate. However, on the first pitch Gilgenbach singled up the middle and Kavadas was thrown out at second to end the game and clinch the series for Virginia. Despite losing the series, Sheehan sees positives from the win the Irish achieved.

"We’re about halfway through the season,” Sheehan said. “It’s good to get any win in ACC play, especially when we’re right around .500, so hopefully we can keep going with that.”

The Irish will look to regain their footing in a home matchup against Michigan State on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.