Irish earn road sweep of Wolfpack
Aidan Thomas | Sunday, March 13, 2022
In a ranked ACC opening series, the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish visited No. 17 NC State. Although the middle game was rained out, the Irish swept the Wolfpack in a two-game set. The victories happened in vastly different styles. The Irish utilized a late-game rally to win on Friday night. Then, with plenty of rest, the Irish jumped all over NC State on Sunday and added plenty late to win 11-4. The pair of victories extend Notre Dame’s winning streak to nine games, and they sit at 11-1. They’re off to a 2-0 start in ACC play.
Irish rally, win in extras
The Irish looked poor early on Friday evening. NC State notched four runs in the first three innings, with a crucial error leading to two of those tallies. The Wolfpack got their first two hitters aboard against Irish senior ace Aidan Tyrell. A groundout and a single eventually scored two runs for the early lead. NC State drilled a two-run single in the third inning for a 4-0 advantage.
NC State’s Sam Highfill kept the Irish off-balance for the majority of his outing. He fired six shutout frames to begin the game. However, the Irish gave tough at-bats, raising Highfill’s pitch count to nearly 100 pitches through those six frames. The Wolfpack tried to squeeze one more inning out of their hurler, and it backfired. Senior first baseman Carter Putz launched a solo shot to cut the deficit to 4-1. The Irish then got some traffic on the basepaths and capitalized by scoring on a wild pitch. Senior shortstop Zack Prajzner singled in another run and, suddenly, it was a one-run game.
The Irish tied the score in the eighth. Graduate student second baseman Jared Miller ripped a double, and junior third baseman Jack Brannigan brought him around. Then the story became a battle of the bullpens. The Irish’s ‘pen was nothing short of fantastic. Senior Alex Rao relieved Tyrell with 1.2 innings of scoreless work. Freshman Radek Birkholz polished off the sixth inning and fired a clean seventh frame. Then graduate transfer Ryan McLinskey baffled the Wolfpack over 3.1 dazzling innings. He gave up just one hit and struck out six. After a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 11th and a sacrifice bunt, McKLinskey gave way to Brannigan. The two-way player struck out a pair to escape the jam.
Prajzner blasted a solo shot in the 12th to give Notre Dame the lead. Then the Wolfpack melted down and the Irish added three more runs for a comfortable advantage. Brannigan closed the door in the bottom half of the inning.
Quick start, late surge boost Irish
The series finale went Notre Dame’s way early. They jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the opening frame and scratched across another in the third inning. Then, after a brief NC State rally, the Irish poured it on late for the easy win.
Three of Notre Dame’s nine hits came from Putz, who knocked in the first Irish run in the first frame. An error and a groundout scored two more. Putz brought home another run in the third inning via a sacrifice fly. The Wolfpack got three runs back in the fifth to cut the Irish lead to 4-3, but the Irish broke off seven runs in the final two innings to put it away. Two runs in the eighth came home via error. Three more runs scored courtesy of NC State wild pitches in the ninth as part of a five-run final inning for Notre Dame.
Graduate transfer reliever Austin Temple was the only Irish hurler to appear out of the bullpen. He fired four sparkling innings, allowing only a ninth-inning run. It was a sloppy effort from the Wolfpack, as the Irish walked away with the road sweep.
Notre Dame plays at home for the first time this season against Valparaiso on Tuesday at 4 p.m.