Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

Neri's blast, strong pitching help Irish take UNCG series

Though it was far from pretty, Notre Dame baseball took its first series over the weekend. Playing at North Carolina-Greensboro, the Irish were outscored by seven runs overall, but survived close games Friday and Sunday. With the result, Notre Dame now sits at 3-3 as February draws to a close.

Friday: Notre Dame 6, UNCG 5

After hitting .110 in the Lipscomb series, the Irish offense came out swinging. Each of Notre Dame’s first six hitters reached in the top of the first with the help of two Spartan errors. By the inning's end, four runs had crossed home plate. Irish sophomore starting pitcher Radek Birkholz nearly sold the early lead, but he escaped a bases-loaded jam with nobody out in the bottom of the first. 

Birkholz finished the day with three scoreless innings. However, his offense failed to add on, and Notre Dame soon paid for it. With graduate student Aidan Tyrell on the mound, UNCG loaded the bags without recording a hit. After a run-scoring sacrifice fly, senior catcher Dallas Callahan crushed a three-run homer to right-center, tying the game at four. 

The next two innings passed without a score, as sophomore reliever Jack Findlay settled things down for the Irish. Notre Dame needed a big hit, and it came in the top of the ninth. Graduate infielder Carter Putz opened with a single, drawing junior catcher Danny Neri to the dish with one out. Though he entered the game with just two career home runs, Neri got a hold of one. When the ball landed over the right field fence, he had given Notre Dame a 6-4 lead. Findlay surrendered a run and made matters interesting before stranding two Spartans in scoring position to end the game.

Saturday: Notre Dame 0, UNCG 12

Game two proved to be a forgettable one for the Irish. Allowing a run in seven of eight innings pitched, Notre Dame suffered its most lopsided regular season loss in over four years. The Irish recorded more errors (five) than hits (three), walking seven Spartans and plunking four more. 

Meanwhile, UNCG freshman starter Jay Miller tossed a gem, working a shutout over seven innings. The Spartan offense rewarded him with a field day at the plate, highlighted by back-to-back bombs from sophomore infielder Rowan Watt and Callahan in the third. Junior Jackson Dennies suffered the loss, surrendering three runs in two innings to start the game.

Sunday: Notre Dame 7, UNCG 4

Despite the shutout, Notre Dame’s bats were no worse for the wear on Sunday. Graduate outfielder Brooks Coetzee wasted no time, starting the action with a first-inning RBI single. In the fifth, the Irish lead ballooned to five on Neri’s second key hit of the series, a two-run single with two outs. UNCG then promptly minimized the deficit to 5-3 on a three-run blast from junior infielder Dosi Jonas, which forced Irish graduate transfer starter Blake Hely from the game.

While the Irish hitters rebuilt the lead to four, junior pitcher Matt Bedford carved up the Spartans in the middle innings. He worked three scoreless frames, striking out four in the process. Head coach Shawn Stiffler removed him entering the ninth, and things got dicey again. UNCG again drew a run back, requiring graduate Carter Bosch to earn the final out with the tying run up to bat. He wrapped it up on a called third strike, securing Notre Dame’s first series win of 2023.

With graduate outfielder Jack Zyska still healing from an injury in the field, Notre Dame’s veterans stepped up. Zack Prajzner, Coetzee, and Putz combined to go 11-for-30 at the dish. The three mainstays from the College World Series lineup also scored seven of the 13 Irish runs.

In their final tune-up before ACC play begins, Notre Dame will visit UAB from March 3-5. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m. EST.