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Sports

Irish win series at Demon Deacons to open 2021

| Wednesday, March 3, 2021

After nearly a year away from the diamond, Notre Dame picked up where it left off before the shutdown of collegiate baseball last March as the Irish (2-1, 2-1 ACC) split a doubleheader with then-No. 16 Wake Forest (3-4, 1-2 ACC) Saturday before shutting out the Demon Deacons 10-0 in the rubber match Sunday at David F. Couch Ballpark in Winston Salem, N.C.  

Notre Dame went 11-2 in Link Jarrett’s first year as head coach before the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19, and the Irish won their first series of 2021 after having individual games against Air Force, Louisiana Tech and No. 11 LSU canceled due to positive COVID-19 test results, contract tracing and subsequent quarantining within the Irish program. 

The first game of the series against the Deacons was scheduled for Friday before that game was moved to Saturday due to weather.

Notre Dame dropped game one of the doubleheader 10-8 despite taking 7-2 and 8-5 leads into the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. However, they bounced back for a gritty 5-4 win in game two before dominating the opposition on Sunday.

Notre Dame’s ability to battle both pandemic-related and typical on-field adversity was not lost on Jarrett.

“So proud of the way our team responded after a tough game one,” he said to UND.com after the victory Sunday. “Wake is an explosive team with some great arms. Our guys battled, adapted and played a sound road ACC series to open 2021. I think we were the only ACC team who hadn’t played and to perform well out of the gate with zero innings under our belts is impressive.”

Irish first-baseman and preseason All-American Niko Kavadas hit a two-run home run to dead center in the first at-bat of his senior campaign before launching a three-run shot, again over the center field wall, in the fifth to give the Irish a 5-1 lead. It was the Granger, Ind. native’s second multi-home run game of his career.

Senior left-handed pitcher Tommy Sheehan gave up just one run in four innings of work, but the Irish bullpen could not prevent the Deacons from chipping away at the lead before snatching the game with a five-run eighth inning.

The Irish again struck first in game two, however, with a two-out grand slam in the opening frame from graduate student left fielder Alex Brait. The transfer from Florida Gulf Coast was down 0-2 in the count in his first at-bat for the Irish but launched a fly ball to the opposite field that snuck over the wall in left to give the Irish a 4-0 lead. 

Wake fought back to knot up the score at 4-4 heading into the fifth, but the Irish took the lead for good in the top of the seventh. Senior catcher David LaManna, who posted a team-high .583 OBP for the weekend, led off with a walk before scoring on a wild pitch to give the Irish the slender advantage. 

This time, the Irish bullpen stymied the ‘Deacs after almost four innings of work from John Michael Bertrand, a graduate transfer lefty from Furman. Sophomore right-hander Liam Simon threw 3.1 scoreless innings before junior left-hander Aidan Tyrell did not allow a hit in the final two innings to earn his second career save. 

Just like in both games Saturday, the Irish wasted no time in putting up crooked numbers in the rubber game. After a leadoff walk, junior designated hitter Carter Putz, senior second baseman Jared Miller and LaManna all singled to help give the Irish a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. 

The Irish doubled their lead in the third after loading the bases with singles from Miller and LaManna, who both went 3-5 on the day, and a Kavadas walk. Junior right fielder Brooks Coetzee, who was hitless heading into Sunday, drove all three runs across with a double down the left field line. Miller currently leads the Irish in 2021 with a .538 BA.  

The Irish grabbed two more runs apiece in the fifth and sixth innings, but the insurance was not required thanks to dominant pitching from graduate student and junior righties Christian Scafidi and Alex Rao. Scafidi, a transfer from Penn, only allowed three hits in his first start for Notre Dame. Rao replaced Scafidi with one out in the fifth and then threw a career-high 4.2 innings of one-hit ball to finish the game. 

“The rhythm and momentum for the team begins with the starting pitcher,” said Jarrett. “Scafidi was outstanding, and Rao followed suit with his own great performance.”

The Irish made no official errors during an entire series for the first time since 2018. Wake Forest committed five on the weekend. 

Notre Dame now travels to Clemson for another three-game weekend series in conference play. First-pitch Friday is scheduled for 4 p.m. The entire series will be available to stream on ACC Network Extra. 

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