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Friday, April 12, 2024
The Observer

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Irish gear up for another likely slugfest against Miami

Irish and Hurricanes both possess power bats but struggling pitchers

This season has been a dizzying one for Notre Dame baseball. Seemingly every game has been a back-and-forth scoring bonanza. Four of the team's first 20 games have featured over 20 combined runs, including a wild 16-11 victory on Tuesday over Western Michigan in which the Irish erased deficits of 4-0 and 10-5. Four straight multi-run innings gave the Irish a much-needed bounce back after being swept last weekend by Florida State.

Much to the dismay of head coach Shawn Stiffler's heart rate, it wouldn't be a shock if offense continues to be the name of the game this weekend. While Notre Dame sits 13th out of 14 ACC teams with a 6.80 team ERA, Miami is only slightly higher in 10th despite posting a mark that's a full run better than the Irish.

The Hurricanes have had an even higher rate of 20-run games, with six of their 20 contests meeting that threshold. Miami holds the same 12-8 record as its opponents but are 4-2 in ACC play, while the Irish are still in search of their first conference win of 2024.

Miami enters Frank Eck Stadium on decent footing, taking two of three in each of its first two ACC series, including last weekend against North Carolina. Its pitching staff had as two-sided of a series as possible, allowing just two runs in the first two games of the series before being hammered on Sunday, yielding a season-high 18 runs. That was more comparable to the Hurricanes’ opening ACC series when they allowed 31 runs in three games to Virginia, including a 16-12 win and 14-11 loss.

Five Hurricanes with at least 35 at-bats have an OPS over 1.000, a staggering statistic that shows the depth of their offense. For reference, the Irish have three of these standards. Jason Torres and Daniel Cuvet are as dangerous of a one-two punch as any in college baseball. Both are hitting over .400, with Torres well over at .457 with 17 of the team's 42 home runs. Blake Cyr has seven long balls himself while hitting at a .306 clip.

The Hurricanes' offense isn't perfect. It strikes out a decent amount, with 65 strikeouts, the fifth most in the ACC, and their eight stolen bases tied for the fewest in the conference, with no player having more than two. But make no mistake -- if you give the Hurricanes a pitch to hit, they will pummel it.

Miami's weekend starting rotation is alright. Rafe Schlesinger, Herick Hernandez and Gage Ziehl have all made five starts with ERAs between 3.81 and 5.04. But, among all the Miami pitchers with multiple appearances, only Nick Robert (2.25) has an ERA below five. The team has let leads in the last three innings slip away on three occasions already this season.

Notre Dame's pitching staff has had the opposite problem. Of the five Irish pitchers to make multiple starts this year, three -- sophomore Caden Spivey, senior Jackson Dennies and graduate student Tobey McDonough -- have ERAs above 10. Graduate student Bennett Flynn and freshman Jack Radel have emerged as trusted relievers, and freshmen DJ Helwig and Keenan Mork have done well in limited appearances.

The Irish will look to find pitching stability and keep their bats hot this weekend against the Hurricanes. Notre Dame and Miami play Friday at 3:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.