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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame baseball prepares for crucial stretch with midweek home matchups

Fresh off a series loss to Clemson, Notre Dame baseball will now face a pair of midweek tests at Frank Eck Stadium.

The Irish started off strong against the Tigers with a Friday victory but faltered as the weekend went on. Perhaps the biggest loss in South Carolina for Notre Dame, however, didn’t come on the scoreboard. Sophomore ace Jack Findlay left Saturday’s contest in the third inning, signaling to his elbow.

While no timetable has been established on Findlay’s potential injury, his loss is a big one for Notre Dame for however long it may be. Findlay leads all Irish pitchers in total innings pitched as well as strikeouts. The sophomore serves as a reliable option for head coach Shawn Stiffler in just about any circumstance. Both a solid starter and a reliable reliever, Notre Dame’s staff changes significantly without Findlay.

Thankfully, the Irish likely will not need much in the way of ace pitching to get through the midweek. Valparaiso and Western Michigan currently hold a combined 24-37 record. More importantly, they’re a combined 1-13 against power five opposition. In the case of Valparaiso, the Irish already won a prior meeting, an 8-4 triumph in late March.

The pair of games marks the start of an important stretch of the season for a Notre Dame squad that has held on to a fighting chance of making the NCAA tournament. The Irish currently stand at 8-9 in ACC play, but will now enjoy three consecutive home series.

This weekend’s opponent, Virginia, sits atop the Coastal Division with a 12-6 record in conference play. Florida State will arrive in South Bend as well, providing a homecoming for former Irish skipper Link Jarrett, with the Seminoles currently sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Finally, the Irish will welcome North Carolina State, the team currently directly above them in conference standings.

All three series, as well as the various midweek contests in between, are of vital importance to any Notre Dame NCAA tournament hopes. Sitting dead in the middle of the pack in the ACC, the Irish aren’t in the NCAA Tournament field as it currently stands. But they also haven’t ruled themselves out. A run of strong performances would do more than allow Notre Dame to climb the conference standings. It would also help the Irish make their case to the NCAA committee.

If the Irish are to go on a late-season run, the offense will likely need to emerge in the coming weeks. Notre Dame currently sits dead last in the ACC in runs scored. In fact, Notre Dame is the only team in the conference to have not eclipsed 200 runs yet in 2023. The Irish rank similarly low in a battery of other hitting metrics: home runs, total hits and team slugging percentage.

Notre Dame baseball will be back in action on Tuesday when they face off against Valparaiso at Frank Eck Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra and the first pitch is set for 4 p.m.