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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Martinez mashes, Irish bullpen goes Beacon-blanking in 7-3 win

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Graduate catcher Vinny Martinez squares up for a pitch during Notre Dame’s 12-0 defeat of Northwestern on April 4, 2023 at Frank Eck Stadium.
Graduate catcher Vinny Martinez squares up for a pitch during Notre Dame’s 12-0 defeat of Northwestern on April 4 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame baseball began a five-game week Tuesday afternoon, hosting and defeating the Valparaiso Beacons for the second time this year. With No. 8 Virginia coming to town this weekend and a slew of home games to follow, the Irish needed a productive start. By virtue of early hitting and a magnificent bullpen, they got it.

“This is a really tough week for us,” head coach Shawn Stiffler said. “It’s gonna take every single person on this roster to make this a productive week and come out of this week with a winning record.”

Freshman right-hander Caden Spivey started the game for Notre Dame and encountered some early trouble. In the first, Kyle Schmack lined a ball that barely cleared the left-field wall for a solo home run. 

However, Spivey dispatched the next two hitters, and his offense offered up some help soon after. Five of the first six Irish hitters singled in the bottom of the first - two of them on bunts. Sophomore outfielder DM Jefferson turned in the marquee knock, driving in two on a softly hit single to right-center. By the inning’s end, Notre Dame led 4-1.

“The most refreshing thing is it started with our small game,” Stiffler said. “It’s something that I don’t know if we don’t have confidence in it, or we don’t have a good feel for when we wanna do it. And as exciting as it was, it was equally frustrating to make an error with two outs in the next inning and give up two right back to them.”

That fielding miscue came from freshman second baseman Estevan Moreno. It put two runners on, bringing up Alex Ryan. He sliced a two-run double to right-center, trimming Notre Dame’s advantage to one.

Valparaiso applied pressure again in the third, loading the bases with nobody out. Stiffler removed Spivey, who had walked two and committed a pickoff throwing error. On came junior Sammy Cooper to face the middle of the Beacon lineup. With two strikeouts and a pop out, he added his name to the list of Irish relievers to escape bases-loaded, nobody-out jams this season. With some help from his teammates, Spivey finished his start with two innings, three hits, two walks and one earned run allowed.

“I hope it builds confidence in him, but we need him,” Stiffler said of Spivey. “Sometimes he runs into that 12-pitch stretch during his outings where he gets out of sync mechanically and it takes him about 12 pitches to get back in. This time it just happened to be at the back of his outing.”

In the bottom of the inning, graduate catcher Vinny Martinez paid off Cooper’s Houdini act. With two outs on the board, he launched a 421-foot shot high off the netting in right-center field.

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Graduate catcher Vinny Martinez squares up for a pitch during Notre Dame’s 12-0 defeat of Northwestern on April 4, 2023 at Frank Eck Stadium.
Graduate catcher Vinny Martinez squares up for a pitch during Notre Dame’s 12-0 defeat of Northwestern on April 4 at Frank Eck Stadium.

After sophomore third baseman Jack Penney singled home a run in the fifth, Martinez repeated the feat. Leading off the eighth inning, he was the first man to face Christian Hack, Valparaiso’s final reliever of the day. Facing a 2-2 count, he pelted another ball to the opposite field for a 405-foot home run. 

“[Martinez] has simplified his approach. We’ve had some discussion about what makes him good and what makes him tick, and he’s very comfortable in this ballpark,” Stiffler said. “He feels like he can homer to all ends of this ballpark which keeps him very centered through the ball.”

Martinez now has six home runs on the year, good for second on the team. Over his last six home games, the Irish backstop is 9-for-21 with five home runs and 12 RBI. 

Notre Dame’s bullpen told the rest of the story Tuesday afternoon. After Sammy Cooper twirled three scoreless innings, graduate student Carter Bosch accomplished the same feat without allowing a hit. To secure the 7-3 win, junior southpaw Ryan Lynch struck out the side in the ninth. 

Now 19-15 overall, the Irish will retake the field Wednesday against Western Michigan. Freshman right-handed David Lally Jr. is Notre Dame’s projected starting pitcher. In 10 and a third innings (three starts), the youngster has pitched to a 6.10 ERA with nine walks and seven strikeouts. Tomorrow’s game, which ACC Network Extra will air, will begin at 6 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium.