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Sports

Irish squeeze out win against Valparaiso, look ahead to North Carolina series

| Friday, April 30, 2021

The No. 6-ranked Notre Dame baseball team downed Valparaiso Tuesday night. The Irish and Valpo exchanged the lead several times over the course of the game, with Notre Dame ultimately coming out on top 8-7.

The Irish were up 3-1 by the time the fifth inning came around. However, it was this inning that proved to be the beginning of the close contest that would ensue. Valpo took the lead after scoring three runs on a double that cleared the bases. By the end of the fifth, after an additional run was added to their score, they had extended their lead to 5-3.

The Irish immediately responded to reclaim the lead, 6-5. Senior infielder Niko Kavadas was hit by a pitch, allowing sophomore infielder Kyle Hess to score. This was followed by senior outfielder Spencer Myers scoring off of junior infielder Carter Putz’s sacrifice fly. A final run from senior outfielder Ryan Cole pushed the Irish ahead by the end of the inning.

However, Valpo snagged the lead again the very next half inning. Both teams went back and forth in scoring runs, with the Irish ultimately tying the score 7-7 at the bottom of the sixth. A final run in the seventh would eventually put the Irish ahead for good.

“You know, we didn’t play great,” head coach Link Jarrett said. “We didn’t pitch as good as I would have liked to. But we got through it…And at this point, again, like I told our guys–you just have to put tallies in the win column, and they did that.”

The team now looks ahead to their home series against North Carolina this weekend. Jarrett hopes the team will perform as a group, with everyone in the lineup contributing in some way.

“It’s really critical if you want to try to score in bunches, at some point, to have a longer inning,” Jarrett said. “You’re going to have to have quality at bats. You’re not going to start at the top of the lineup every inning, so it’s important that the five, six, seven, eight guys can find ways on base and generate some offense.”

As for the Tar Heels themselves, they return several of their starting players this season. However, even their new players have made their mark, with their new center fielder having stolen fourteen bases this season.

“It’s a very balanced, top to bottom team, very experienced, a Super Regional-caliber team,” Jarrett said.

Jarrett mentioned that there is a different mindset heading into the series than there was last year. The Irish faced North Carolina at a much earlier time last year, while now they are further into the “magnitude” of the season.

“They knew North Carolina was a good team going in last year, and we played well,” Jarrett said. “We got a lot of breaks…Now, some of that we create, but you still have to take advantage of the opportunities, and we did that, and they know North Carolina is another good team coming in here.”

Jarrett expressed that it may be easier to face UNC in a home series, as the team is more comfortable with their routine and schedule. This is different to his mindset from last year, when he said he probably would have been more comfortable away against the Tar Heels. The Irish swept North Carolina last year in Chapel Hill before the season was postponed.

Heading into the matchup, there is little ambiguity left at this point in the season. Both teams know what to expect from the other.

“You know, they know our team,” Jarrett said. “Everything’s out there now. At this point, the videos, the metrics, the stats, the data is all there. And I just hope we can go play our style of baseball, and play sound, and play solid, and see what happens.”

 

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