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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer


Irish inch closer to winning record with midweek sweep of Valparaiso, Purdue Fort Wayne

Notre Dame bounces back in midweek single games after being swept by North Carolina last weekend series

Notre Dame baseball (18-18, 2-16 ACC) continued its midweek dominance with victories on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Irish hung on for a 7-6 victory against Valparaiso on Tuesday before run-ruling the Purdue Fort Wayne (PFW) Mastodons 15-5 on Wednesday. Both victories came at Frank Eck Stadium, which moved Shawn Stiffler’s club to 8-4 at home on the year.

On both nights, an Irish batter came within one swing of the cycle. Tuesday, it was senior first baseman Connor Hincks, who continues to thrive in his first full season of consistent playing time. Hincks went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple in the fifth inning and a two-run homer in the seventh to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 7-3. His home run would prove to be the game-winner in a 7-6 decision.

The following night, Simon Baumgardt, a graduate transfer from Tulane, clubbed two singles, a double and an opposite-field home run in his most productive performance of the season. The third baseman increased his season batting average to .291 with the four-hit night, which also included three runs and three RBIs.

Freshman DJ Helwig started Tuesday’s tilt against Valpo, firing three scoreless innings to earn his first win of the season. He allowed only two hits while striking out three Beacon hitters. Behind Helwig, graduate student Bennett Flynn and junior Ricky Reeth fired multiple innings, surrendering one earned run each. Graduate student Nate Hardman closed the door in the ninth after a brief scare, securing his fourth save of the year. 

Kaleb Krier took the loss for Valparaiso, his third of the campaign. Six Irish baserunners reached across Krier’s three innings, with three of them coming in to score. Notre Dame tacked on multiple runs against Adam Guazzo and Jake Jakubowski in later innings to bring their score to seven, including Hincks’ longball against the latter reliever.

Jack Penney, the junior shortstop, scored in both games, including the run-rule winning run in the eighth inning against PFW on Wednesday. He tripled and doubled in the game as well, recording three hits during the week and an RBI in both contests. Hincks and senior right fielder Brady Gumpf also had a great week, combining to go 10-for-15 at the plate with one home run each and seven total runs batted in.

Graduate student Tobey McDonough started on Wednesday for Coach Stiffler and showed encouraging signs pitching two strong innings of scoreless baseball, striking out five of the seven PFW batters he faced. Sophomore David Lally Jr. was the standout pitcher of the night, accounting for 2.2 impressive frames with three Ks. His curveball fooled Mastodon hitters all night. Freshman lefty Justin Mayes made his first collegiate appearance, striking out his first career batter en route to a scoreless third inning. Graduate student reliever Will Jacobsen allowed his fifth homer of the year, but otherwise looked in control, picking up the win. 

Brody Fine started for the Dons, tossing three innings and only allowing one earned run on a wild pitch. The PFW bullpen faltered behind him, specifically right-handed reliever Josh Kuhns, who suffered the loss, recording only one out and giving up three earned runs. Sean Kasper (1.1 IP, 2 Ks) was the only Mastodon pitcher to not give up a run to the Irish, who scored in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings.

Six Irish starters had multiple hits in the 15-5 win. Notre Dame struck six times, all with two outs, in the eighth to secure the run-rule victory. Beyond Baumgardt, Gumpf and Penney, sophomore second baseman Estevan Moreno extended his on-base streak to 15 games, drawing two walks and eating two bean balls in a successful day at the plate. Moreno also stole a base and scored twice.

Nick Sutherlin hit a fourth-inning home run for PFW which tied the game 1-1. Ben Higgins and Cade Fitzpatrick had two RBIs each in the top of the sixth inning for the Dons, who failed to win their fourth game against a Power 5 team this year.

The Irish head into a crucial weekend series at home against Boston College sitting at .486 overall. They are last in the ACC with just two conference wins, but at least they have some momentum to build on after a successful week of midweek matchups. Notre Dame will play plenty of games at Frank Eck Stadium over the next month, hosting 14 of its next 15 games, with their only road tilt at Michigan State on April 30. Most importantly, all 12 remaining ACC matchups will take place in South Bend. 

Irish fans next have the opportunity to pack the stands at Frank Eck Stadium at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 19 for Irish Wear Green night against the BC Eagles. This game marks the start of a three-game weekend set against the conference rivals as the Irish begin preparing for the tail end of the 2024 season.