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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

ND wins two series over Pitt, Valpo

Notre Dame prevailed on the road against Pittsburgh in a 2-1 series win over Easter weekend. The Irish (17-22, 10-11 ACC) fell in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader before bouncing back with two consecutive victories to clinch the series over the Panthers (12-27, 4-17 ACC).

The first game began as a defensive grudge match. The first two innings and the top of the third saw the batting team go three up, three down, and no more than four batters saw action in an inning for either team until Notre Dame finally broke open the score in the top of the seventh inning.

With the bases loaded and no outs, junior first baseman Daniel Jung hit a sacrifice fly that drove home sophomore third baseman Niko Kavadas. Right after, the Irish added to the tally as freshman designated hitter Carter Putz grounded out but managed to score freshman left fielder Jack Zyska to go up 2-0. However, the offense would once more stall for the Irish.

After giving up one run to Pitt in the bottom of the seventh and going three up, three down in the top of the eighth, the Panthers scored three more runs in the bottom of the eighth as the Irish couldn’t find an answer from their bullpen. With two outs, men on first and second base and a 3-2 count in the top of the ninth, Putz lined out to end the first game and put the Panthers up 1-0 in the series.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish third baseman Niko Kavadas swings at a pitch during Notre Dame's 3-1 loss against Florida State on Mar. 24.

Following the loss, Notre Dame managed to put the pieces together. Despite it appearing their offensive struggles would continue — after going three up, three down in the first two innings of the second game — the Irish dominated the second game of the series, winning 9-0. Sophomore shortstop Jared Miller opened the scoring for the Irish in the third inning off of an RBI by freshman second baseman Zack Prajzner. Putz added another run in the fourth as freshman catcher Jack Alexander hit an RBI double.

The definitive moment in the game came in the fifth inning with the bases loaded as Jung hit a grand slam to put the Irish up 6-0. Senior right fielder Eric Gilgenbach, Zyska and Kavadas all made their ways around the diamond. Putz rounded out the inning, making it home on an Alexander single. The Irish fielding was credited for the shutout, as junior right-handed pitchers Cameron Junker and Zack Martin combined to strike out seven batters and gave up seven hits on the day.

Sunday, in the decisive game of the series, Notre Dame yet again went three up, three down in the first two innings of play and fell behind as the Panthers managed to score just before recording their third out. However, the Irish responded quickly as Prajzner tied the game with a solo home run in the third inning.

Notre Dame took the lead for good in the fifth inning as Putz drove home Jung on a single to right field, and Prajzner scored Putz on a sacrifice bunt. Kavadas added one last insurance run in the sixth inning off a Jung sacrifice fly, as junior and sophomore left-handed pitchers Cameron Brown and Tommy Vail paced the Irish to a 4-1 victory, totaling a combined 13 strikeouts and four hits allowed on the day.

On Tuesday night, Notre Dame began an 11-game homestand with a one-game series against Valparaiso. Once more the Irish got off to a slow start offensively, as they were unable to record a hit until the fifth inning. Meanwhile, a walk with the bases loaded and a fielding error that led to two runs contributed to a 3-0 lead for the Crusaders (8-27, 1-8 MVC).

In the fifth inning, Notre Dame finally got on the board as Kavadas doubled down the right field line for two RBIs to cut the margin to one. Later in the evening, Kavadas scored on a sacrifice fly by senior right fielder Eric Gilgenbach. In the seventh inning, Kavadas once more delivered for the Irish with an RBI single that gave Notre Dame a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.

Despite not scoring for the remainder of the game, Notre Dame’s bullpen stepped up to close the game. In the top of the ninth with two outs, an 0-2 count and one man on second, sophomore right-handed pitcher Joe Boyle got the save for the Irish as the Crusaders struck out swinging.

The Irish will prepare to face No. 14-ranked North Carolina State this weekend with first pitch scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.