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Baseball

“Unthinkable” comeback boosts Irish over Boston College

| Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Notre Dame wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Despite being blown out 10-0 in Friday’s opener and trailing by 9 runs late in the second game of the Saturday doubleheader, the sixth-ranked Irish (20-8, 18-8 ACC) still managed to take two of three on the road from Boston College (16-21, 6-18 ACC) this weekend. 

“Unbelievable, unthinkable,” Irish head coach Link Jarrett said of Saturday’s come from behind win. Notre Dame trailed 9-0 but scored 12 runs in a thrilling eighth inning, eight of which came with two outs. 

“That’s why you coach and play, is for that feeling. It just doesn’t come around very often, but when it does you will never, ever forget what that’s like,” Jarrett said. 

The Irish could not get anything going at the plate in the first game of the series on Friday. Their bats were silenced by Eagles right-hander Emmett Sheehan, who tossed 6.1 innings of three-hit ball. Senior center fielder Spencer Myers went 3-4 at the plate for the Irish, but he was the lone bright spot. The rest of the team managed just two hits combined. Junior southpaw Will Mercer started the contest but had a rough outing, allowing seven runs before being pulled in the fifth inning.  

“[They’re] very tough, but our guys were tougher,” Jarrett said of the Eagles.  

Due to the weather forecast in the Boston area, the two teams elected to move Sunday’s scheduled game up and play a doubleheader Saturday. The Irish came out hot in the first game, loading the bases with no outs. A sacrifice fly from junior designated hitter Carter Putz brought Myers home, and with two outs in the inning, senior first baseman Niko Kavadas showed off his baserunning acumen by swiping second, allowing senior left fielder Ryan Cole to take home. Myers tacked on another with an RBI single with one out in the second, extending the Irish lead to 3-0. 

The Eagles hardly threatened through the first six innings against graduate student left-hander John Michael Bertrand, but they finally got through in the seventh inning, scoring two runs. Bertrand was pulled for sophomore right-hander Tanner Kohlhepp, who retired all eight batters he faced to close out the game. The Irish added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth, when Kavadas took a fastball the opposite way for a two-run home run. 

Boston College jumped on the Irish early in the rubber match. Kohlhepp returned to the mound to start the contest for the Irish and allowed the Eagles to score a run after a double and an RBI groundout. The Eagles threatened again in the second, but he was able to escape the inning unscathed.

However, the Eagles added another run in the third following a throwing error and an RBI single. After loading the bases, Kohlhepp was pulled for graduate student left-hander Joe Sheridan, who immediately gave up an RBI single, walked a batter and allowed a two-run double before getting the final out of the inning.

Junior right-hander Alex Rao replaced Sheridan after the UCF transfer gave up back-to-back singles to start the fourth. A two-out RBI single extended the Eagles lead to 8-0, and they added another in fifth on a passed ball before Rao was able to get out of the jam. 

The Irish scored their first run of the contest in the seventh on a Myers RBI groundout. They entered the eighth trailing 9-1, but the bats came alive at the right time.

“They didn’t need any yelling and screaming,” Jarrett said. “They were infuriated with how this was going.”

Kavadas led off the frame with another home run, his second of the day and team-leading 15th of the season. Putz singled and sophomore third baseman Jack Brannigan was hit by a pitch before junior shortstop Zack Prajzner drilled a three-run homer to left field to cut the lead to 9-5.

After junior catcher Nick Juaire grounded out for the second out out of the inning, sophomore second baseman Kyle Hess walked and stole second. Myers beat out an infield single, and a throwing error allowed Hess to come home. Cole was hit by a pitch, prompting a pitching change, but Kavadas drew a walk to load the bases, and Putz and Brannigan followed with consecutive walks to score two more runs. 

Senior catcher David LaManna beat out a fielder’s choice as the Eagles first went to second to try and force Brannigan out, but he slid in safely. LaManna beat the throw to first, allowing two runners to come home and give the Irish their first lead of the game.

“Toughness, poise, composure, any words you want to throw out for that, it was fitting,” Jarrett said of the victory. 

After Prajzner was hit by a pitch, Brannigan broke for home on the subsequent at-bat, beating the pitcher’s throw to extend the lead and firing up the Irish dugout.

“They had been in the windup a lot with a runner on third base, and it just seemed like it was the right time to try it,” Jarrett said. 

Juaire then walked, and Hess hit a ground-rule double to add some additional insurance runs for the Irish, extending the lead to 13-9. The combination of sophomore right-hander Liam Simon and junior left-hander Aidan Tyrell combined to slam the door and preserve Notre Dame’s largest comeback win since 2009.

Jarrett said the rally was unlike anything he has witnessed in his two decades of coaching.

 “I’m just so proud of the toughness of the kids, the coaching staff, the stick-with-it-ness of the group,” he said. 

The Irish return to campus Tuesday for a mid-week matchup against nonconference foe Valparaiso before welcoming North Carolina to South Bend for a three-game weekend series. Notre Dame has just three conference series remaining before postseason play begins.

Jarrett noted his team could be primed for a deep postseason run.

“As you witness these unique moments, it really builds confidence that the possibilities are endless for what the group can do,” he said.

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