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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Irish spoil Link Jarrett’s return with dynamic series win

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Meg Lange
Irish graduate pitcher Carter Bosch winds up for the pitch against Northwestern at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame baseball was in a tough spot after Friday night’s game. After sweeping then-No. 8 Virginia and climbing 17 spots in the RPI rankings, the team had just dropped two winnable games — first at Michigan State, then at home against Florida State. With a time change for Saturday’s game, the Irish had just 15 hours to get right and avoid a losing streak. 

They did just that, reminding former head coach Link Jarrett of the primary reasons for their 2022 run to Omaha with him: potent offense and spotless defense. With Jarrett coaching in the Seminole dugout, Notre Dame scored 24 runs in the weekend’s final two games, never committing an error across the entire three-game set. It all amounted to an impressive bounce-back and a 2-1 Irish series win.

Game one: Seminoles out-clutch the Irish for tight win

With their former skipper back in town, Notre Dame’s veterans may have gripped the bats a little too tight Friday night. Down a run in the final three innings, Irish graduate students misfired on several tying opportunities. As a result, the team lost 3-2, ending Florida State’s 12-game road losing streak.

Excellent starting pitching marked the game’s first half, as FSU’s Jackson Baumeister squared off with Notre Dame graduate student Aidan Tyrell. On 106 pitches, the former struck out nine and allowed one run in six innings. Meanwhile, Tyrell gave his team seven innings of three-run baseball.

The scoring started in the third when Tyrell walked a pair to bring up Jaime Ferrer with two outs. Ferrer ripped a double to the left-field corner, scoring both runners. In the fifth, Notre Dame initiated a loud response. On a 3-2 count, freshman second baseman Estevan Moreno slammed a solo home run to left. It was his seventh blast of the year, and it cut the Seminole lead to 2-1.

Florida State rebuilt its two-run advantage in the seventh, striking again with two outs on a Colton Vincent single. As FSU transitioned to the bullpen in the bottom of the frame, Notre Dame pulled one back. Graduate outfielder Brooks Coetzee rocketed a leadoff double to right, and Moreno singled him home for his second RBI of the night. 

From there, Notre Dame’s missed opportunities told the story, marked by an inability to read the breaking ball. Graduate infielder Zack Prajzner closed the seventh by striking out with the tying run at second. The same fate befell Coetzee with two runners on in the eighth. In the ninth, a two-out FSU fielding error gave the Irish life, but Prajzner struck out again with a man on second.

By the night’s end, Notre Dame had gone 1-for-15 with runners on base, not once recording back-to-back hits. Drew Kirkland earned the Seminole save, pitching 2 ⅓ scoreless innings.

Game two: Contagious hitting fuels Irish blowout

A handful of Notre Dame’s conference wins at home have followed the same formula. The Irish start slow offensively and fall behind early, only for the bats to become white-hot in the middle innings. In Saturday’s 12-2 shellacking of Florida State, it happened again.

After winning close Friday and watching FSU softball do the same, Link Jarrett’s squad felt great heading into Saturday. The good vibes picked up right away in the first, as James Tibbs skied a leadoff homer. Nander De Sedas crushed another in the fourth, putting FSU ahead 2-0. All the while, Seminole starter Conner Whittaker looked impeccable in his first three innings. But Notre Dame made serious adjustments in the fourth.

Prajzner opened the inning with a flyout, but the Irish scored five before recording the next out. They racked up six consecutive hits, getting the barrel to everything in sight. The first big blow came from graduate catcher Vinny Martinez, who launched a go-ahead, three-run shot down the right-field line. 

On the next four pitches, sophomore outfielder DM Jefferson and Coetzee added another in with back-to-back doubles. Junior catcher Danny Neri then kept the train moving on an RBI single to right. When the dust settled on the inning, Notre Dame led 6-2.

Now pitching with the lead, graduate starting pitcher Blake Hely settled in masterfully. He retired his final 10 batters, striking out eight in his second consecutive seven-inning start.

Though it didn’t feel like it, Florida State was still very much in the game. Notre Dame’s offense put that idea firmly to rest with a six-run eighth. Sophomore third baseman Jack Penney stole the show, hammering a grand slam and adding an equally impressive bat flip. With the four-piece, Penney became the first Irish hitter to 10 home runs in 2023. Just like that, the Irish had blown the game open and were well on their way to a 12-2 win.

Game three: Irish overcome pitching woes with second offensive explosion

Despite considerably damper conditions, Notre Dame’s offense rolled right along into Sunday’s game. In the first, graduate first baseman Carter Putz tagged a 420-foot homer to the opposite field. An inning later, Martinez belted his ninth dinger of the year to left-center field. With both being solo shots, the Irish were out to a 2-0 lead. However, just like Saturday’s affairs, the early lead evaporated quickly.

Facing graduate starter Carter Bosch, Florida State got to work in the third. Vincent stroked a run-scoring single to right, setting up DeAmez Ross. On the first pitch he saw, the center fielder slammed his first career home run, a three-run job to right. After that, Bosch only saw two more hitters. But his replacement, freshman Caden Spivey, excelled in relief. He pitched 4 2/3 innings, conceding just two runs and allowing Notre Dame’s offense to soar.

Takeoff occurred in the bottom of the fourth when Coetzee stepped in with two men on and driving sleet falling from the sky. The right fielder mashed a ball right through, homering to center and handing Notre Dame a 5-4 lead. That sent FSU starter Carson Montgomery to the showers, allowing the Irish to attack an already thin Seminole bullpen. 

Though Florida State briefly leveled the score in the fifth, Putz powered Notre Dame to a lead that would last. After Prajzner singled to lead off, he sent his eighth round-tripper to right-center again.

From there, Notre Dame never looked back. Prajzner, Putz and Coetzee combined to drive in five between three singles in the sixth. The ‘Noles tried to make it a game late, but junior relievers Ryan Lynch and Sammy Cooper slammed the door for a 12-8 victory.

With the result, the Irish now hold a 25-17 overall record. Their 13-11 ACC mark ties Boston College for second place in the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, Florida State (15-27, 6-18 ACC) continues to dwell in the division’s basement. 

Notre Dame will face Bowling Green at 6:00 p.m. at home Tuesday before a crucial visit from NC State this weekend.