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Timely hitting, pitching proves key in Irish baseball win over Michigan

| Thursday, April 14, 2022

On Tuesday night, Notre Dame baseball extended its winning streak to nine games, dispatching Michigan 14-5 in a midweek, out of conference game.

A combination of both timely hitting and pitching propelled the Irish to the dominant victory, as Notre Dame’s staff and bats proved to be at their best when pushed up against the wall. 

The first such instance of clutch play by the Irish came in the first inning, when Michigan quickly loaded the bases with no outs. Freshman pitcher Jack Findlay kept his cool and managed to escape the inning without any runs allowed. The Wolverines would again threaten after loading the bases in the second, but this time sophomore Jackson Dennies worked his way out of the jam.

In the bottom of the second, it was the Notre Dame bats that proved to be at their best up against it. With two outs, a series of four consecutive patient walks by the Irish loaded the bases and eventually brought in the first run. Then graduate student center fielder Spencer Myers loaded up on a pitch he liked and sent a grand slam flying over the left field wall. The Wolverines would make it out of the inning, but the damage was done. Myers’ home run had opened the floodgates for a big offensive day for the Irish. 

“That was huge for us, to just get that momentum after a couple guys got on,” said first baseman Carter Putz. “We wanted to get up and get off to a good start and when Spencer came up, had a big at bat, after that we had all the momentum and were controlling the game.”

Michigan would notch a few runs of their own in the fourth inning, but Notre Dame would roar back with a four run spurt in the bottom half of the inning of their own. It was a combination of both simple hitting — a pair of singles by Putz and senior right fielder Brooks Coetzee III brought in a total of three runs — as well as more Wolverine pitching errors. Senior designated hitter Jack Zyska kept his cool and got hit with a pitch with the bases loaded, and just like that the Irish lead was seven. 

“I’ve talked to the coaches the past couple of weeks and made some small mechanical changes,” Putz, who’s now riding an 11 game hit streak, said. “I’ve been meeting with them to come up with a game plan, and I’m looking at pitchers ahead of time to see their tendencies.”

Notre Dame would notch another run in sixth on a double by Zyska, before unleashing one final four run explosion in the bottom of the eighth. Three singles by Coetzee III, senior short stop Zack Prajzner and junior third basemen Jack Brannigan all helped the Irish respond to the three runs Michigan posted in the top of the inning.

Irish head coach Link Jarrett used a combination of five pitchers in the win, four of whom pitched for less than two innings. Jarrett said that he liked the promise he saw from the youthful rotation he used, even if there is still work to be done as his staff develops.

“Today I look at some of the younger arms — Findlay, obviously he’s learning his way, Jackson is going to help us, this year you’ve seen it. We’ve got to figure [junior pitcher] Liam [Simon] out. We knew [senior pitcher Aidan Tyrell], we didn’t want to overdo it, but he was fresh enough to help,” said Jarrett. “We didn’t want to just hold him for the weekend because this was an important game. We were playing a good team. He settled the game down. And then [freshman pitcher] Radek [Birkholz]. You can sense the stuff is good. The fastball is lively. His secondary stuff wasn’t in play a lot, we didn’t throw it a lot, but he was good.”

Jarrett further discussed the importance of cultivating experience in his pitching staff as Notre Dame enters the back end of their schedule and prepares for another potential run at the College World Series.

“Using some of those younger guys to groom them for what’s coming down the stretch is really important,” Jarrett said. “Because when you get into these weekends when you’re competing like we are, it’s not always going to be [John Michael] Bertrand throwing 130 pitches. We’re going to have to piece these things together like we did today. Those guys are going to find themselves in critical positions before the season is over, and this grooming and learning on the fly, you can’t replace that.”

The Irish will now look ahead to a three game stretch back in conference play against Duke, where Notre Dame will look to further extend their winning streak. First pitch in Durham will be at 4pm Thursday, and the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.

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