Irish to celebrate Senior Day against FSU
Jamison Cook | Friday, May 7, 2021
The Notre Dame baseball team will host its final games of the regular season this weekend when Florida State visits South Bend for a three-game ACC series. The No. 2 Irish (24-8, 21-8 ACC) can increase their lead in the Atlantic Division and in the ACC overall with another series win over the No. 13 Seminoles (23-16, 15-12 ACC). Notre Dame has yet to drop a series this season, and they completed their second series sweep last weekend with a dominant performance against North Carolina.
The Irish lit up the scoreboard in the series against the Tar Heels, scoring 13 and 19 runs in the second and third games of the series, respectively. The 19-run output on May 2 was the most runs ever scored in an ACC game for the Irish since they joined the league in 2014. Notre Dame had four different player hit home runs in the outing, the second time they have hit four home runs in a game this season.
Florida State has also demonstrated home run power throughout the season, something for which head coach Link Jarrett said his team must be prepared and that the pitching staff must throw strikes.
“You have to attack the strike zone and you have to try to make good pitches because they’re patient, but they obviously have the firepower and the strength and the capability to do some damage,” he said. “That’s been their offensive style for a while — it works for them — but our guys just have to pitch in the context of how they’ve pitched and pitch to their strength.”
Redshirt sophomore catcher Matheu Nelson has led the way for the Seminoles this season, racking up and ACC-leading 20 home runs and 57 runs batted in. Outfielders and fellow redshirt sophomores Robby Martin and Elijah Cabell have also made an impact for Florida State, notching 42 and 28 runs batted in, respectively.
For Notre Dame, senior first baseman Niko Kavadas continues to put up big numbers. He leads the Irish with 15 home runs and 43 RBIs. Kavadas and his four senior teammates — left fielder Ryan Cole, center fielder Spencer Myers, catcher David LaManna and second baseman Jared Miller — will celebrate Senior Day this weekend. Jarrett said the Class of 2021 has been instrumental in turning the Notre Dame program around throughout a myriad of changes this season.
“These guys have been through a lot; I don’t even know where to start the list of what they’ve endured,” he said. “The COVID navigation has been an unthinkable piece; the drastic reduction in the draft has been something they’ve had to endure; a coaching change has been something they’ve had to endure. It’s a testament to their strength and toughness and focus, because they’ve had to mentally adapt to a lot of changes, probably as much as any program in the last few years.”
He went on to say how proud he is of this senior class and the progress they have made on the field, in the classroom and as young men.
“I’m proud of these guys, and the contributions on the field, the performance in the classroom [and] the way these guys conduct themselves off the field is remarkable,” he said. “They’re an elite group of student athletes … it’s a special group. They helped me transition into what I was trying to do with the program, and I couldn’t have done it without them. There have been some big moments that they’ve had quite an impact on — on the field, off the field — and I’m proud of the success they’ve tasted this year.”
It has been quite the season for the Irish: All major polls rank them in the top 10 in the country as of May 3. With regional locations set to be announced at the end of next week, there is a legitimate possibility that Notre Dame could host a regional at Frank Eck Stadium. In the meantime, however, they will look to take another step in the direction of securing a regular season ACC title and the top seed in the ACC Tournament. Jarrett did not hesitate to acknowledge how much these milestones mean to him and his team.
“It’s why you put on the uniform,” he said. “I’ve always talked about, with our programs, the desire to become the best team in your conference … At the end of it, you would like to think that you have shown you’re one of the best teams in your conference, and if you can do that, that’s what you’re asking the players to do.”
Notre Dame has most definitely put themselves in a position to do just that, and they can make it a reality by taking care of business against Florida State this weekend. The first pitch will be thrown on Friday, May 7 at 6 p.m., followed by game two on Saturday, May 8 at 1 p.m. and game three on Sunday, May 9 at 1 p.m. Games can be attended in-person by a limited number of students or viewed on ACC Network Extra.