Notre Dame prepares to take on Wake Forest
Mannion McGinley | Friday, February 26, 2021
After their season-opening weekend in Louisiana was canceled, the Notre Dame baseball team is scheduled to take the field for a three-game series this weekend against Wake Forest. The three games in Louisiana were canceled after positive coronavirus tests on the team and subsequent quarantining.
Head coach Link Jarrett discussed the COVID-19 situation two weeks ago. He said the team was adjusting well, but games are something they had not really seen yet.
“In games, you’re going to see guys wearing masks, umpires in masks,” Jarrett said, “It’s just going to be the way we have to adapt, and we haven’t seen it yet in college baseball. We haven’t gotten to the starting gate to really see what these games look like, but I can tell you the locker room, the lounge, the weight room, the dugouts. It’s different.”
With all of the schedule changes and new structures put in place, some things were more stressful than normal for Jarrett’s club, especially for pitchers.
“The biggest concern in our sport is obviously the preparation of the pitchers,” Jarrett said. “Their arms and their health and building them up, you know, in a major league spring training setting those guys incrementally build their pitch counts. We have to do the same thing. We’re relying on them to come in, maybe a little bit more prepared and like a major league starting pitcher would entering spring training because they have a little bit longer calendar to work within their preseason.”
Health is already complicated for pitchers, Jarrett said. The Irish will be without senior left-handed pitcher Tommy Vail after he injured himself in early practices. Although it’s never easy to lose someone, Jarrett isn’t too worried because of how strong other pitchers came back and the amount of depth the team has in its rotation.
“He was a valuable piece of what we were doing,” Jarrett said of Vail. “But I think our guys came in, very prepared, and we’re absolutely on point with our preparation especially for the pitching.”
The different pieces are falling into place on offense as well. Jarrett named senior infielder Niko Kavadas as a source of confidence for the Irish.
“We’ve seen Niko’s game-changing ability,” Jarrett said. “One swing of the bat, you know, every time he’s at the plate it’s a game-changing type power to all fields that you just rarely see at this level. So we need his at-bats to be competitive and consistent. I think we have pieces around him that add some dimensions with base running and maybe give him an opportunity to get more pitches to hit. So we expect obviously another big season from him.”
Jarrett has high expectations for the team’s true freshmen as well, especially left-handed pitcher Ryan Lynch and outfielder Brady Gumpf, son of Notre Dame softball head coach Deanna Gumpf.
“Lynch and Brady, they’re young, they’re learning what this is like at this level the day in day out competitiveness of playing against guys that are older,” Jarett said. “There’s a learning curve there. Those guys both come out every day completely engaged in what we’re doing. Each of them in their own right has progress that they need to make. They’re capable of competing at this level but with the group around them and in the age of some of these guys they’re learning how challenging it is to step in and compete at the upper levels of college baseball and if your program is where it should be that’s how it should be for all the freshmen. I talked to the guys the other day about this should challenge you every time we go on to the field, and I think they’re experiencing that.”
He continued on a similar point for freshman catcher Danny Neri and freshman infielder Brock Murtha.
“Our other freshmen Brock Murtha, Danny Neri some of the other young guys that are gonna step in there and contribute, they’re learning that every day is so competitive and it demands, your mental and physical best every time you step on the field,” Jarrett said. “They’re learning what this is about. They have physical talent. It’s just now a matter of consistency and in grasping what it is that they can do to help our program and get them onto the field.”
The Irish will get a chance to take the field at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 1 p.m. Sunday against Wake Forest.