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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

Clemson claws back to take series from Notre Dame

With a golden opportunity to reach a .500 mark in ACC play, Notre Dame’s offense fell by the wayside in big moments in Clemson. After dominating Friday night’s game, the Irish took a step back against strong Tiger pitching on Saturday and Sunday. With the series loss, Notre Dame falls 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference action.

Graduate right fielder Brooks Coetzee dives into home plate during Notre Dame's 12-0 defeat of Northwestern at Frank Eck Stadium on April 4, 2023.
Graduate right fielder Brooks Coetzee dives into home plate during Notre Dame's 12-0 defeat of Northwestern at Frank Eck Stadium on April 4, 2023.

Game one: Notre Dame 10, Clemson 4

With red-hot junior pitcher Jackson Dennies receiving another series-opening start, Notre Dame fell behind early Friday night. The Tigers brought a total of 13 men to the plate in the first two innings, cashing in for two runs in the second. In the ensuing top of the third, the Irish dished out a resounding response. Notre Dame’s first three hitters reached to load the bases, and four graduate students followed with a train of run-producing at-bats. When all was said and done, the Irish had scored five runs before making an out. They would add one more on a pickoff error to take a 6-2 lead.

After that, Dennies settled in to finish four innings, and Notre Dame’s offense widened the margin. In the fifth, junior outfielder TJ Williams clubbed a two-run home run, his fourth of the season. Clemson scratched two late runs across, but a two-out, two-run double from graduate right fielder Brooks Coetzee III held the Tigers at arm’s length.

Getting five innings of two-run ball from two of its sub-two ERA relievers, freshman Caden Spivey and graduate student Aidan Tyrell, Notre Dame iced the six-run victory. Having forced Clemson to use seven arms in the contest, the Irish appeared to have a firm grip on the series.

Game two: Notre Dame 1, Clemson 5

A highly unfavorable pitching combination doomed the Irish in Saturday afternoon’s loss. First, sophomore starting pitcher Jack Findlay suffered his first true hiccup of the season. The Tigers attacked the lefty early, handing him the second-worst line of his young career (five earned runs in two-plus innings). Clemson connected for three extra-base hits in the second inning, including a leadoff laser home run from Billy Amick. 

Though the Irish also scored a run in the second, they couldn’t cut the 5-1 deficit after the third. Clemson starting pitcher Austin Gordon had his way tossing an earned run-free 6 ⅓ innings, good for a career-high. As he departed in the seventh, Notre Dame missed out on the first of two scoring chances. Inheriting runners on the corners and one out, Clemson reliever Tristan Smith struck out junior catcher Danny Neri and induced a Williams groundball to end the threat. 

In the eighth, the Irish generated an even more promising opportunity, putting men on second and third with one away. The inning mirrored its predecessor, though. This time, Nick Clayton entered and struck out Coetzee before getting a groundout from pinch-hitting graduate outfielder Nick Juaire. Striking out three more times in the ninth, Notre Dame faded quietly to even the series.

Game three: Notre Dame 4, Clemson 6

Sunday’s rubber match turned out to be the weekend’s most competitive game. Both offenses enjoyed fast starts, yielding a 3-2 Clemson lead through two frames. In the first, Coetzee belted a two-out RBI double, but Will Taylor countered with a run-scoring single. Then, both teams scored two-out runs in the second, but the Tigers grabbed two to take the one-run lead.

Yet again, missed opportunities told Notre Dame’s story as the game transitioned into the home stretch. Between the third and ninth innings, the Irish went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. At the same time, when Notre Dame did squeak runs across, Clemson answered. That first occurred in the fifth, when the Irish briefly tied the game before the Tigers struck back. Then, in the seventh, Clemson dealt the final blow as Amick and Riley Bertram laced consecutive doubles to untie the game once more.

From there, Nick Clayton wrapped up his excellent weekend out of the Tiger bullpen. Pitching three shutout frames, he closed out a 6-4 Clemson win and sent Notre Dame home with a disappointing series loss.

Following the road trip, the Irish will play 15 of their next 16 games at Frank Eck Stadium. That stretch begins with a pair of home midweek matchups — Tuesday against Valparaiso and Wednesday against Western Michigan. Both games will begin at 6 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.