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Irish prepare for midweek battle with Valparaiso

| Monday, April 26, 2021

After a thrilling, come from behind series win against Boston College, the sixth-ranked Notre Dame baseball team (20-8, 18-8 ACC) returns home for a midweek matchup with Valparaiso (8-21, 3-9 MVC) on Tuesday. After overcoming a 10-0 defeat in the opening game of the series, and battling back from a 9-0 deficit in the rubber match to take the series from the Eagles, the Irish look ahead to their third-midweek matchup of the season. The Irish have had success in their two previous midweek games, most recently defeating Central Michigan 8-4 on April 13. They also defeated Valparaiso 6-3 on March 23, behind two home runs from senior first baseman Niko Kavadas. 

This will be the second of three matchups with Valparaiso this season, with the third coming on the road on May 11th. The two schools have a long history, as this will be the 103rd meeting all-time. The Irish have dominated the series, holding an 81-21 advantage including a 54-10 mark at Notre Dame. The Irish have also claimed 18 of the last 19 matchups. 

The Crusaders have struggled this season and currently sit last in the Missouri Valley Conference. Their team batting average is .230, while their pitching staff has compiled a 6.13 ERA. Despite this, they were tough for Notre Dame in the teams’ first matchup, leading 3-2 as late as the 6th inning before Notre Dame scored four runs to seal the game. Offensively, they are led by infielder Damon Jorgensen who leads the team with a 0.274 batting average, and outfielder Riley Dent, who has 12 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs.

Notre Dame will likely rely on the continued production of junior infielder Carter Putz, who is batting 0.345 and has driven in 21 runs, and Kavadas, who has mashed a team-leading 15 home runs so far this season. Kavadas is second in the conference in home runs, after going deep in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader. He was named to the prestigious Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list last week. 

The two teams have been trending in opposite directions over the last month. Valparaiso has won just 4 out of their last 15 contests since the loss to the Irish, including a string of eight straight defeats at one point. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has knocked off ranked opponents in Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Louisville and has yet to lose an ACC series — the only team in the conference with that distinction. The team’s effort has not gone unnoticed, as they are ranked 6th in the most recent Baseball America Poll, behind only Louisville in the ACC. 

Head coach Link Jarrett has used a pitchers-by-committee approach in the midweek matchups thus far, allowing the usual weekend starters to rest. They have used five pitchers in each of the two games. The first pitch is scheduled for 5:30 on Tuesday evening in Frank Eck Stadium and will be broadcast live on ACC Network Extra.

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