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Carter Putz provides lone spark, looks to rally Irish

| Monday, June 20, 2022

There’s no way to sugarcoat it — Sunday night’s game against Oklahoma was a bad day for Notre Dame baseball. Head coach Link Jarrett summarized it well with his opening remark of the postgame press conference.

“They outplayed us in essentially every phase of the game,” Jarrett said.

The Irish used seven pitchers in a game where Oklahoma got a runner on base in every single inning. At the plate, Notre Dame mustered just six hits, with four of them coming from one man: Carter Putz.

The Notre Dame senior first baseman has been huge for Notre Dame this year. He is hitting .345  with 24 extra-base hits and a team-leading 48 RBI. Putz moved from designated hitter to first base as Link Jarrett tried to fill the big hole left behind by Niko Kavadas.

The 4-4 night at the plate against Oklahoma was a continuation of those efforts as he put together quality at-bats on a night where Notre Dame hitters struck out 14 times, including 11 times against OU’s starter Cade Horton. Simply put, it was the best outing of Horton’s career. The redshirt freshman used an electric high-90s fastball and sharp breaking pitches to stymie the Irish offense.

Despite his success on the night, Putz recognized the quality of Horton’s outing.

“He kept all of us off balance with the curveball and the slider. So, trying to pick up the different pitches was a little challenging for us today. So, tip of the cap to him.” Putz said.

The strikeouts also point to Horton’s ability to get ahead and then put hitters away. It was the opposite for Notre Dame. The Irish gave up two RBI singles to Tanner Tredaway. The base hits came on counts of 0-2 and 1-2, respectively. Combined, Tredaway and star shortstop Peyton Graham were 7-8 against Notre Dame with two more walks. The Irish just couldn’t get Oklahoma’s star hitters out and Jarrett pointed to two-strike situations as the reason why.

“Ultimately, their ability to punch us out and their ability to manage their two-strike hitting was the difference. It felt like it was constant pressure. The reason was that they commanded the strike zone a little bit better [than us] from the mound and at the plate.” Jarrett said.

On defense, Notre Dame cost themselves as well. In the fifth inning, with runners at the corners and one out, Oklahoma laid down a bunt to get the run home from third on the squeeze play. Instead, the throw to first sailed wide and allowed two runs to score on the play which extended the Sooner lead to 4-0 at the time. It was a play that you’d expect Notre Dame to make – after the game, Jarrett even commented that they had game-planned for OU’s bunting game – but it was just one of those nights where nothing clicked.

Unquestionably, the loss is a blow to Notre Dame’s chances to make the championship series. But it’s not over yet and they have an elimination game against Texas A&M on Tuesday to show that they’re not done yet. Putz was confident in Notre Dame’s ability to move on and get right for Tuesday.

“You just have to take it one game at a time. This group is really good at that realizing the importance of these games late in the year and I know that the off-day tomorrow will give us time to get over it and then focus on Texas A&M.”

Later, Putz added: “We just try and go 1-0 each and every day and I think this team is capable. As long as we play our game, we can go out and compete with anyone.”

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