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Baseball

Notre Dame baseball wary of slumping Boston College

| Friday, April 23, 2021

The Notre Dame baseball team is 25 games into its season and still has not dropped a series. The Irish will put this streak on the line when they visit Boston College this weekend for another three-game ACC series. Notre Dame (18-7, 16-7 ACC) has risen as high as No. 7 in some national polls, and they continued to trend upwards with an 11-2 victory over North Carolina State on Sunday that gave them another series win. Despite the recent struggles for Boston College (15-19, 5-16 ACC) — who have lost six of their last seven games — head coach Link Jarrett is wary about the matchup.

“[Boston College] is a good team: balanced offense, talented, athletic, good defensively, can run,” Jarrett said. “They’re going to be tough, tough top to bottom, so it will be a good matchup, no doubt.”

Interestingly, the Eagles have struggled at home, where they are just 5-9 on the season. The Irish, who have been a good road team this year with an away record of 9-3, will look to take advantage and remain perfect in series games on the season.

A large part of the continued success for the Irish has been their elite defensive play, and their .988 fielding percentage ranks best in the nation. Defense has been a focus for Jarrett and his team this season, and the improvement from last year has been noticeable throughout their meteoric rise in national rankings.

“It’s been a focal point, and I told you guys from day one we needed to get better at that,” Jarrett said. “I think if you look back, that had been a weakness, and we needed to flip that and turn it into a strength. Being hard to score on is a characteristic of an elite team. We have to figure out the offensive piece; we still haven’t been great. We’ve been better at times, but if you can contain the people you’re playing and make it hard for them to score, you’re in good shape.”

Ari Denning | The Observer
Irish sophomore infielder and pitcher Jack Brannigan hits while at bat in a win against Georgia Tech Apr. 9, 2021.

 

The offense Jarrett referenced did struggle in the first two games of the series against NC State, scoring three runs in the win on Friday and just two runs in the loss on Saturday. The at-bats did get going on Sunday, as the Irish put up 11 runs in the series-clinching blowout win. Notre Dame recorded 15 hits in the win, led by three hits from senior infielder Niko Kavadas and two each from senior outfielders Spencer Myers and Ryan Cole, senior infielder Carter Putz, and junior infielder Zack Prajzner. Sophomore infielder and pitcher Jack Brannigan led Notre Dame in the game with three runs batted in.

Jarrett indicated that junior pitcher Will Mercer and graduate student pitcher John Bertrand will pitch Friday and Saturday, respectively, the same tandem that started the first two games of the series for the Irish a week ago. Bertrand, who had missed some time recently due to injury, pitched for the first time competitively in almost two weeks. While his performance was not quite up to the point that Jarrett had hoped for, Bertrand felt fine after the start, a positive sign for both him and the team.

Pitching will be a very important part of the contest, as Jarrett said Boston College’s “top half of the order is as good as any top half of the order in the country.” A solid pitching performance paired with Notre Dame’s elite defense will put the Irish in a position to be successful.

With Louisville’s series against Pitt cancelled this weekend, Notre Dame has the opportunity to move into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic side of the ACC. As the race for seeding within the ACC Tournament heats up, Jarrett notes the importance of each game, no matter who his team is playing.

“The margin of error in the league is zero, really,” he said. “Boston College was probably picked by some publications to go to the College World Series. That’s how good they are, our guys know that. We’ll break the scouting report down tomorrow. We don’t get in until about 10:30 tonight, which is obviously tricky. They know, and they know the magnitude of every one of these games.”

Notre Dame will continue to approach each series one game one inning at a time, beginning with Boston College on Friday at 5:30 p.m. Games two and three will follow on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m. All three contests will be available for viewing on ACC Network Extra.

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