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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Pitching, dynamic offense lead Notre Dame to 7-3 win over Texas in CWS opener

The Irish beat the No. 9 Texas Longhorns 7-3 in their opening game of the College World Series. It was Notre Dame’s first Omaha victory in exactly 20 years. They beat Rice 5-3 on June 17, 2002. Today, it was pitching that set the tone for Notre Dame as the team allowed 3 runs on just 6 hits against a potent Texas offense that has averaged 8 runs per game this season.

Bertrand, early offense give Irish an edge

Notre Dame graduate student ace John Michael Bertrand returned to form. He pitched into the sixth inning allowing just three runs after a nightmare outing in Knoxville last weekend. Bertrand was also the beneficiary of a Notre Dame offense that got going early.

Senior second baseman Jared Miller got things going in the first inning when he hit an opposite-field home run in the second at-bat of the game. It was just Miller’s fifth homer of the year and it set the tone early for the Irish.

In the third inning, some small ball got the Irish their second run. Graduate student outfielder Ryan Cole led off the inning and was hit by a pitch to reach base. Then he stole second for his 22nd steal of the season. He moved over to third on Miller’s second hit of the game. Carter Putz recorded an RBI groundout to give Notre Dame the 2-0 lead.

Texas responded in the bottom of the third with a squeeze play that scored Dylan Campbell from third for the Longhorns’ first run of the game. Ivan Melendez then laced a single up the middle to put runners on the corners. However, Bertrand struck out Murphy Stehly on three pitches to halt the Texas momentum and strand two runners.

From there, Notre Dame kept adding on. In the fourth, they used a squeeze play of their own to score their third run as senior center fielder Spencer Myers laid down the bunt and junior third baseman Jack Brannigan sprinted home. The call on the field was initially out at home after Hansen fielded it and flipped it to Texas catcher Silas Ardoin for the out. However, Notre Dame challenged the call, and after review, it was overturned. Brannigan successfully snuck his hand under the tag to score by the slimmest of margins to extend the Irish lead to 3-1.

Notre Dame extends advantage

In the fifth inning, Notre Dame put a little more distance between themselves and the Longhorns. With one out, three straight Irish singles knocked Texas’ starter from the game.

After senior shortstop Zack Prajzner drove in a run, Texas went to the bullpen. Tristan Stevens came on to face senior outfielder Brooks Coetzee. However, with Brannigan – who has three career steals of home – inching off the third-base bag Stevens tried a pickoff move to third. Instead, Stevens was called for a balk before he even threw his first pitch. That scored Notre Dame’s fifth run and second of the frame. From there, Myers singled to score Prajzner from second and make it a 6-1 game.

Texas got one back in the bottom of the fifth via Douglas Hodo III's RBI single to drive in Campbell. Campbell was Texas’ best offensive player on the night. He finished 1-3 with a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored.

The Longhorns scored their final run of the game in the bottom of the sixth. Stehly singled then moved to third on a wild pitch and a ground out. At this point, Bertrand was at 96 pitches and Irish head coach Link Jarrett made the move for senior righty Alex Rao out of the bullpen with a man on third and one out. Rao came in and quickly got Skyler Messinger to an 0-2 count before losing control on an elevated fastball. The pitch got past LaManna and allowed Stehly to score from third. The wild pitch made it a 6-3 ballgame before Rao struck out Messinger and Ardoin to end the inning.

Ryan Vigilante | The Observer
Irish senior pitcher Alex Rao allowed five hits and four runs and recorded five strikeouts across six total innings during the NCAA Baseball Super Regional game between Notre Dame and Tennessee.

Bullpen slams the door

From there, it was all pitching. Rao pitched an inning and a third allowing just one baserunner – a four-pitch walk in the seventh. At that point, Jarrett called to the bullpen and brought in freshman lefty Jack Findlay. The Irish's newfound closer struck out Eric Kennedy to end the seventh.

Findlay was perfect on the night, retiring all seven hitters he faced to close out the multi-inning save for Notre Dame. It was his fourth save of the postseason. He struck out Melendez, the Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year, to open the eighth. Texas’ first baseman had an uncharacteristically quiet night at the plate going just 1-4 with no extra-base hits and a strikeout. His only hit came in the third inning.

In the ninth inning, Notre Dame finally got to Stevens. Senior first baseman Carter Putz smashed an opposite-field home run that was only the second hit that Stevens gave up all night. The homer was Putz’s eighth of the year and it gave Notre Dame some extra insurance ahead of the bottom half of the ninth. Findlay didn't need it, however, as he fired a perfect ninth inning.

Next up for Notre Dame are the Oklahoma Sooners who won their opening game of the College World Series early Friday afternoon, beating No. 5 Texas A&M 13-8. That game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sunday, broadcasting on ESPN2.