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Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024
The Observer

Irish baseball thrashed in midweek battle against Spartans

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Sofia CrimiVarolli | The Observer
Irish graduate student Brooks Coetzee III makes contact with the ball in the Irish’s March 26 matchup against Louisville.

Entering this week, Notre Dame baseball was coming off a weekend of dreams. After sweeping the No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers at Frank Eck Stadium by scores of 10-7, 10-2 and 5-4, the Irish improved their overall record to 23-15 and their conference record to 11-10. Notre Dame was hot, riding a five-game winning streak after recently taking a vital ACC series win against the Pitt Panthers. 

The Irish trekked up to East Lansing, Michigan, on Tuesday night to take on the Michigan State Spartans in a one-off non-conference game. Notre Dame and Michigan State earlier this season on April 11, when the Irish fell 7-6 after 11 hard-fought innings at home. Both teams were unranked heading into Tuesday’s matchup. The Spartans held a similar record to the Irish, sitting at 24-13 overall and 7-5 in Big Ten play.

Although not an ACC matchup, the game was pivotal for the Irish. With the NCAA baseball postseason fast approaching, Notre Dame needs to rack up wins wherever possible, both for seeding and to build confidence before beginning their campaign to qualify for a second straight College World Series. 

The Irish began the game hot, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Junior outfielder TJ Williams began the scoring run with a single, eventually scoring on an RBI double from graduate infielder Carter Putz. Leading 1-0, the Irish continued to get on base, with sophomore infielder Jack Penney and graduate catcher Vinny Martinez walking. Putz would then score off a Michigan State error before freshman infielder Estevan Moreno reached base on a fielder’s choice to score Penney. The Irish exited the first inning with three runs on the board. 

The Spartans would rally for two runs in the second inning. Later, in the bottom of the fifth, a three-run Spartan home run brought the score to 5-3 in Michigan State’s favor. The Irish would scratch and claw for their last runs of the day in the top of the sixth. Martinez reached base with a single, and sophomore outfielder DM Jefferson ripped a deep triple to right center field to trim the defecit to 5-4. Junior outfielder Brady Gumpf brought home Jefferson on a sacrifice fly to level the score at 5-5.

The Irish offense would go dry in the seventh inning and for the remainder of the game as their pitching totally collapsed. The Spartans posted a six-run seventh inning, with the Notre Dame bullpen unable to find an answer for the red-hot Michigan State bats. Despite modest base hits in the eighth, the Irish drove home no runners, continuing their season-long issue of failing to capitalize with runners in scoring position. The Spartans tacked on one more run in the eighth to win 12-5.

While it was a staff day of pitching for the Irish, with starters resting for this weekend’s home series against ACC opponent Florida State, the performance on the mound was still uncharacteristically poor. Freshman RHP David Lally Jr. led off the game, pitching 1.2 innings and allowing two runs off of three hits. Sophomore RHP Ricky Reeth had the longest outing of any Irish pitcher, battling through 2.2 difficult innings and ceding three runs by way of the three-run home run. 

Junior RHP Matt Bedford came in to relieve Reeth, allowing two runs off of one hit in 1.2 innings pitched. Junior lefty Ryan Lynch replaced Bedford, giving up a rough four runs off of three hits while only retiring a single Spartan batter. Junior RHP Sammy Cooper pitched a full inning, allowing one run off of three hits. Graduate RHP Justin Moore was the only Irish pitcher who did not allow a run, striking out one of the two batters he retired.

Following the non-conference disappointment, the Irish will be back in action this weekend at home against Florida State. Friday’s game will be at 6 p.m. on ACCNX, Saturday’s at 4 p.m. on ACC Network and Sunday’s at 3 p.m. on ESPN2. Notre Dame will hope to rebound after this midweek thrashing in East Lansing.