Lucky lefties: Irish ride Bertrand, Findlay to Super Regional berth
Aidan Thomas | Sunday, June 5, 2022
Winning 3-2 and 6-4 in the Statesboro Regional were no small feats for Irish baseball. Notre Dame stepped up to another close win over Texas Tech, decided again, late in the game.
In the ninth inning of a one-run game, with a trip to the Super Regionals on the line, the bases were loaded. Texas Tech’s All-American and expected first-round draft pick Jace Jung stood in the batter’s box and once more, Jarrett trusted the rookie left arm of Jack Findlay.
And Findlay delivered.
The true freshman induced a high chopper to first base. Senior first baseman Carter Putz gathered and stepped on the bag for the final out. And after three heart-stopping, nail-biting victories, Notre Dame moved on. Findlay finished with 1.1 innings of work and the save for the second straight night. He also recorded a three-pitch strikeout to leave the bases jammed in the eighth inning.
“This was a tough regional,” Irish head coach Link Jarrett said. “All four teams were very, very competitive. We’re fortunate to have walked out here with three wins.”
Offensively, the Irish were led by graduate student left fielder Ryan Cole. He tallied four hits on the day and knocked in both runs. Notre Dame continued to scratch and claw for runs at the plate. Single tallies in the third and fourth innings provided their sole damage. Cole picked up one of his four hits in the third, knocking home Notre Dame’s first run. In the fourth, Cole did it again, legging out a run-scoring infield single for a 2-0 lead.
Cole’s four-hit day represented nearly half of their nine hits. Senior shortstop Zack Prajzner picked up two hits, the only other multi-hitter for the Irish.
The effect that throwing one inning in the opener that featured a six-hour rain delay would have on graduate student pitcher John Bertrand was uncertain. However, Bertrand dazzled all evening. He surrendered two hits in the first inning but escaped unscathed. An error and a hit put a runner in scoring position in the second. And again, Bertrand walked away with no damage. After that, there was very little to do against the veteran lefty.
“You guys saw today why JM is who he is,” Jarrett said. “He navigates, settles into his starts.”
Bertrand faced just ten batters over the next three innings. The lefty didn’t walk a batter all night, and his command of the game led to a low pitch count. He gave up a pair of sixth-inning singles but induced a double play. That preceded a perfect seventh inning as Bertrand fired his third 1-2-3 of the night.
However, the eighth inning provided more drama. A one-out double gave the Red Raiders life. With two outs, All-American Jace Jung sent a rocket to right field and it hit well up the high wall for a very long RBI single. After another single, Jarrett went to the bullpen. But senior Alex Rao couldn’t find the zone, walking his man on four pitches.
Findlay comes up big again
With the bases juiced, Jarrett summoned true freshman Jack Findlay. And for a second straight night, the southpaw delivered in a sticky situation: three fastballs — each increasing in velocity — and three strikes. And with a huge display of emotion, Findlay walked off the mound unscathed.
“Just coming in and executing pitches right away,” Findlay said. “Focusing on that, and good things are going to happen.”
The ninth inning wouldn’t be easy either. A one-out single and a rare Findlay walk started the Texas Tech comeback attempt. After a fly-out, a hit batsman loaded the bases for Jung. Jarrett stuck with his freshman and got a second straight trip to the Super Regionals because of it.
As the postseason continues, awaiting the Irish is another road series, this time hosted by No. 1 Tennessee.