ND sweeps series with UNC, moves to nine conference series wins this season
Jimmy Ward | Monday, May 3, 2021
The No. 6 ranked Notre Dame baseball team completed a sweep of the North Carolina Tar Heels this weekend, pushing them to a six-game win streak. With the series win the Irish (23-8, 20-8 ACC) now have nine conference series wins this season, the most in a season since 2000. They are also the only remaining team in the ACC that has yet to drop a conference series.
The first game saw a good pitching battle as the Irish were able to shut out the Tar Heels, beating them 4-0. Irish junior Will Mercer got the start and allowed just three hits through 4.2 innings. Sophomore Tanner Kohlhepp would close out the rest of the game as he too would allow just three runs en route to collecting the final 13 outs of the game.
The game was scoreless through the first three innings until the Irish caught a spark from sophomore Jack Brannigan who hit his fourth home run of the year early in the fourth inning. The Irish added one more run in the inning on an RBI single from sophomore second baseman Kyle Hess. Senior right fielder Brooks Coetzee led in two more runs in the bottom of the eighth to seal the deal for the Irish after a couple of Tar Heels errors allowed Brannigan and junior infielder Carter Putz to score.
The second game saw an even closer contest, but a more offensive battle as the Irish were able to hold off the Tar Heels 13-12. It was an all-around team contribution that spurred the Irish to victory on Saturday as every single member on the Irish lineup either scored or drove in a run. The Irish leapt out to an early 5-1 lead through the first two frames and were able to add a pair of runs in the fourth and sixth innings and three in the fifth to establish a comfortable 12-2 lead. The Tar Heels would rally late, scoring three runs in the seventh and six in the eighth, but it was not enough to overcome the lead the Irish built.
The third game was a good culmination of the series. Both teams got on the board. The Irish were quick to respond to the two runs the Tar Heels put on the board with five of their own in the bottom of the first. The Tar Heels would score once in the second and twice in the third to knot up the game.
The game seemed neck and neck until the Irish decided to kick it up a gear in the fourth inning, scoring six runs. Putz hit a solo homer to take the lead back for the Irish and it was smooth sailing from there on out. Senior center fielder David LaManna got the party started in the fourth with his own solo homer. While Coetzee hit a three-run homer, Putz and senior first baseman Niko Kavadas both drove in runs in the spectacular inning. The Irish would add one more six-run inning in the eighth to put the game on ice, finishing with a 19-5 advantage. The 19 runs are the most ever earned in an ACC game for the Irish since joining the league in 2014.
Irish head coach Link Jarrett said that LaManna served a vital role in the Irish win.
“He’s a tough kid and I think part of the toughness of our team is him back there. He plays with energy, he communicates well with the pitchers, he’s had some huge hits for this team in the time that I’ve been here … It was an impressive, impressive day behind the plate, at the plate he was the leader of this thing today for us no doubt.”
The Irish will be back at Frank Eck Stadium next weekend as they host their final home series of the year against Florida State. The three-game series starts at 6 p.m. on Friday and will be aired nationally on the ACC Network.