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Notre Dame baseball looks to flip the script against Louisville

| Friday, March 26, 2021

Since 2009, the Notre Dame baseball team has played Louisville 38 times. The Cardinals have dominated the series, winning 32 out of the 38 matchups. In fact, Notre Dame (10-3, 9-3 ACC) has not beaten Louisville (15-5, 7-2 ACC) since 2011, and Louisville has won the last 19 matchups between the two teams. Coming into the season – following an ACC preseason coaches poll that picked the Cardinals to win the conference and the Irish to finish 13th out of 14 teams – many would have expected Louisville’s dominance of Notre Dame to continue.

However, the Irish have exceeded all expectations this season, starting off with a red-hot 10-3 record and rising to a No.12 ranking nationally. Notre Dame has not dropped a series yet this season, and come into this series against Louisville having won eight out of their last nine games.

“The measuring stick of where your program is at is really reflected in how important these games become. They’re all important,” head coach Link Jarrett said. “I know we haven’t played great against Louisville in the last 10 years, I get that. We just have to go play the best game of baseball we can within the confines of what we do.”

Notre Dame continued to play its best baseball with a 6-3 victory over Valparaiso in their most recent contest on March 23. Niko Kavadas led the way for the Irish with two hits, two runs scored, and two RBIs. Five pitchers took the mound for the Irish against the Crusaders, combining for 16 strikeouts while giving up only 6 walks. None of the pitchers threw more than 44 pitches on Tuesday, something that will be key this weekend against Louisville when all pitchers should be available for the series.

“[We] should be in good shape,” Jarrett said when asked about the availability of his pitching staff. “Some of these guys are going through stuff for the first time. How we’re using Will Mercer is different than how it was last year…the outings, and the results, and the role has been tough to pin down for him so we’re probably going to let Sheridan roll out there first tomorrow just to give him an opportunity.”

Louisville comes into the series ranked No. 6 in the country and, like the Irish, have won eight of their last nine games. The Cardinals are known for their prolific base-running, highlighted by Levi Usher, who has stolen 18 bases on 19 attempts through just 20 games. Coach Jarrett acknowledged this strength but noted his team will not go out of their way to change their own game plan to account for it.

“Usher’s hitting .226. It’s hard to have 14 base hits and 18 stolen bases. You can tell how aggressive some of these guys are, and we’ll talk about it with our guys,” he conceded. “If we have to change what we’re doing because of who shows up to play, we’ve probably come up short in our training for the last year.”

Sticking to the game plan and playing their own game is a huge emphasis for Coach Jarrett, and this has been one of the biggest reasons for the program turnaround under his oversight. Jarrett is proud of how far his team has come and the consistent quality of play they have shown, but they are far from where they should and can be as they continue to pursue championships both in the ACC and on the national level.

“You’re proud of the moment and where you’ve gotten to, and you recognize it’s going to be difficult this weekend and it’s going to be difficult next weekend. So you really never come up for air, especially when you’re in a situation where you’re contending to be in the national discussion,” Jarrett said. “You can’t come up for air, it’s a constant pitch-for-pitch grind and that’s how they need to feel. That kind of keeps you in check. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win every game, but you hope you dang show up to compete every time.”

The series against Louisville opens on Friday, March 26 at 4 p.m. at Notre Dame’s Frank Eck Stadium. The second and third games of the series will be on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., respectively. Games can be attended in person by students or seen on ACC Network Extra.

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