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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Irish look to continue early season success against Virginia

After taking two of three games from Clemson, the Irish surged into the top 25, the first time this season. The Notre Dame baseball team (4-2, 4-2 ACC) will take on Virginia (7-5, 2-4 ACC) this weekend in Charlottesville, Va. Notre Dame has now won three straight road ACC series, dating back to the 2020 season, for the first time since joining the conference. The 25th ranked Irish have found a great deal of success on the road under second-year head coach Link Jarrett. They finished the abbreviated 2020 campaign with a 9-1 record away from home to go with this year’s 4-2 mark. 

The two teams have faced off 15 times over the years, with Virginia taking 10 of the matchups, including four of six at home. The Cavaliers won the last series between the squads, taking two of three games in South Bend in April 2019. 

The Cavaliers have faltered slightly as of late, dropping series to Florida State and North Carolina. Their most recent game was a 7-0 midweek shutout of Richmond. Their pitching staff is the strength of the team. Junior right-hander Mike Vasil is the ace of the group. He's posted a 0.48 ERA through three starts this season, and 20 strikeouts against just two walks. Senior left-hander Andrew Abbott has also been highly effective thus far, owning a 1.96 ERA with 29 strikeouts. Virginia also has a number of quality arms in the bullpen. 

The Irish certainly have the offensive firepower to go up against Virginia, however. Senior second basemen Jared Miller has been on a tear to begin the season, batting .417 and leads the team with 9 runs scored. Junior designated hitter Carter Putz has also been swinging the bat well, batting .409, and senior first baseman Niko Kavadas leads the team with three home runs and nine runs batted in. 

However, the Irish pitchers have struggled at times this season, posting a 5.33 ERA. Graduate student right-hander Christian Scafadi has posted a 1.50 ERA thus far but has only pitched six innings in two starts. Graduate student John Michael Bertrand, who struggled in his first outing of the year against Wake Forest, allowing four runs in three and two-thirds innings pitched, bounced back in a big way against Clemson to even the series last weekend, pitching seven masterful innings, allowing just three hits. Jarrett has also turned to the bullpen early and often through the first six games, and they have answered the call.

This series would be a big win for an Irish team that is looking to continue its remarkable rise under Jarrett, who joined the Irish after leading UNC Greensboro for seven seasons. The Irish were among the best teams in the country during the shortened 2020 season. They compiled an 11-2 record before the season was shut down. Factor in this year’s start, and the Irish have a 15-4 record since Jarrett took the helm. Notre Dame has not made the NCAA tournament since 2015. They have not advanced past regionals since 2002. A series victory over Virginia, historically among the best in college baseball, would go a long way towards that goal. 

The first pitch will be on Friday at 3 pm from Disharoon Park in Charlottesville, televised on ACC Network Extra. Games two and three will be at 1 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s game will also be on ACC Network Extra. Sunday’s will air on the ACC Network.