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Saturday, April 20, 2024
The Observer

Irish baseball swept by Louisville on the road

The top-ranked Notre Dame baseball team had a disappointing weekend, dropping three games at the hands of ACC opponent Louisville. Notre Dame entered the series on a ten-game winning streak. However, bullpen struggles plagued the Irish throughout the weekend as they fell to 12-4 on the season and 2-3 in conference play.

Louisville takes a high-scoring opener

Friday night’s series opener was a high-scoring affair, as both sides scored runs early and often. Notre Dame started strong at the plate. A pair of singles and senior designated hitter Jack Zyska’s fourth home run of the season gave the Irish 3-0 lead in the top of the first. That lead was quickly erased. After the Irish outburst, Louisville jumped all over Irish starting pitcher Aidan Tyrell for five runs in their half of the inning. Most of the damage was done on a three-run home run. Tyrell would last only one inning before being replaced by senior Alex Rao. He became the first in a string of Notre Dame relievers unable to withstand the Cardinals’ offense.

Junior third baseman Jack Brannigan singled home a run for Notre Dame in the top half of the third. Then, a Louisville error added another and tied the game at 5-5. Once again, though, the Cardinals had a quick response, scoring three runs in the third to reclaim the lead.

The Notre Dame bats went to work again in the fifth. Brannigan and senior right fielder Brooks Coetzee hit back-to-back singles that scored two. Following that, graduate student catcher David Lamanna crushed a gap shot double to score both and give the Irish a 9-8 lead. However, Louisville continued to put runs on the board. The Cardinals scored one in the fifth, two in the sixth and in what turned out to be the backbreaker for the Irish, five in the seventh to take a 16-9 lead. Notre Dame fought back with two in the eight. But it wasn’t enough, as Louisville emerged from the slugfest with a 16-11 win.

Irish drop game two after late pitching collapse

Game two of the series was a nearly polar opposite of Friday’s game. It featured a duel between two pitchers performing at an extremely high level. Notre Dame, looking to respond after the tough loss, had graduate student ace John Michael Bertrand on the mound, and he delivered an outstanding showing. Bertrand twirled six shutout innings before Louisville scratched one run across in the seventh. Despite the late run, he finished the day having given up just four hits across 6.1 innings.

The Irish offense didn’t take advantage of Bertrand’s excellent outing. Louisville starter Jared Poland, excellent in his own right, shutout the Irish over seven innings. He yielded just three hits and struck out ten in seven scoreless innings.

With Notre Dame trailing 1-0 heading into the eighth, Brannigan continued his strong weekend, hitting a 434-foot solo shot to centerfield and tying the score. In the bottom of the eighth, Louisville broke open the game with a massive inning. On the backs of a grand slam and a two-run home run, the Cardinals scored seven runs off three different Irish pitchers. Notre Dame could not respond in the ninth. With another late-game surge, Louisville clinched the series in a game that was much closer than the 8-1 final would indicate.

Cardinals use clutch home run to seal sweep

Louisville struck first in the final game of the series, using a wild pitch from Notre Dame graduate student Austin Temple to take a 1-0 lead in the first. Temple seemed to settle down after that and held the Cardinals hitless over the next four innings, which included striking out the side in a dominant fourth inning on the mound.

Notre Dame used small ball to take the lead in the fourth. The Irish pushed two runs across on a walk, a single, an error, a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly. That 2-1 advantage would hold until the bottom of the sixth. After stifling the Louisville bats for five innings, Temple tired, giving up a pair of singles to start the sixth. Graduate student Ryan McLinskey replaced Temple mid-inning. After the pitching change, the Cardinals used a double to drive in both runners and scored one more on a single later in the inning to go up 4-2.

Notre Dame rallied once more, despite the deficit. In the seventh, the Irish walked in a run and scored two more on a sacrifice fly and a clutch single from senior first baseman Carter Putz to take a 5-4 lead. As was the case all weekend, though, Notre Dame’s bullpen could not shut Louisville down late in the game. A critical two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth was enough to give Louisville a 7-5 victory and a sweep of the No. 1 Irish.

Notre Dame will get a chance to regroup at home against Northwestern on Tuesday at 4 p.m. before taking on Virginia Tech in a home series this weekend.