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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

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Moreno makes history, helps Irish to 11-2 home opener win

Notre Dame defeats Purdue 11-2

Notre Dame baseball won their home opener on Tuesday afternoon, dispatching Purdue 11-2 to move to a 9-2 record on the season.

A red-hot Estevan Moreno led the way for the Irish offense, launching a trio of home runs in the third, sixth and eighth innings. Moreno, who also went yard three times on Saturday against Tennessee Tech, became the first player in program history to hit three home runs in a single game three different times. His six home runs, all of which have come in the last three games, now lead the Notre Dame roster on the year. The blasts were the Irish’s 30th, 31st and 32nd of the year as a team, placing the team in first place nationally.

Though the 11-run effort – Notre Dame’s fourth straight game scoring double digit runs – was headlined by Moreno’s firepower, contributions were aplenty from across the lineup card. Eight of the 10 batters to step to the plate for the Irish recorded at least one hit, and seven different players drove in runs. The Irish were efficient with their hitting, stranding just three players on base in the game. Purdue, in contrast, left 10 runners on base.

Infielder Connor Hincks in particular continued a breakout senior campaign, going 3-4 at the plate to boost his season batting average to .351. Hincks came just a home run away from hitting for the cycle, with the highlight of his efforts being an RBI triple in the seventh inning. After the game, head coach Shawn Stiffler praised Hincks’ resiliency and consistency in improving after a junior year in which the infielder played in just seven games.

“He came in day one.” Stiffler said. “Wasn’t ready to play a big role on last year’s team, but he just did the routine every day. And then went out and played summer ball and did the routine everyday and everyday. So now he’s looking up, and he’s several thousand swings into a routine that’s got him feeling really good… he’s such a hard worker.”

Notre Dame leaned on a battery of arms to work their way through the contest, with none of the four pitchers to take the mound throwing for more than three innings. Bennett Flynn, who handled the sixth, seventh and eighth frames, put in the best shift of the quartet, striking out four of the 10 batters he faced. All told, Flynn allowed just one baserunner across his outing. 

“He’s been great,” said Stiffler of the graduate student. “He’s different. He’s got that breaking ball, the ball splits in two. His stuff is big league, he throws strikes with it. He’s confident.”

The win sets the Irish up nicely for their fourth road series of the season and first conference series of the young spring. Notre Dame will travel to Blacksburg over the weekend, where they’ll take on a solid Virginia Tech squad. Like the Irish, the Hokies haven’t faced much in the way of top-25 opposition this season, but they have won every series they’ve played en route to an 8-3 record.

Offense should play a major role in deciding the three-game series. Virginia Tech boasts an explosive lineup, and have scored 10+ runs in six of their eleven games. Notre Dame will also have to contend with playing in a tough environment, with the Hokies record at home over the past three seasons (2022-24) standing at an impressive 59-18.

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