Sports, Baseball

Previewing 2021 Baseball Against Notre Dame

In 2012, Notre Dame baseball—and all of its other varsity sports but football—joined the ACC  from the Big East. In the years since, the Fighting Irish found themselves more often than not near the bottom of the ACC’s Atlantic Division. 

After former Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri departed South Bend to take the helm at Louisiana State in 2006, the program was coming off eight consecutive College World Series Regional appearances, including one trip to Omaha in 2002. In the 14 years since Mainieri’s exit, the Irish have reached the Regionals once.

Second-year Irish head coach Link Jarrett appears to have reinvigorated the Notre Dame program, going 11-2 in the pandemic-shortened year of 2020. His team is off to an 18-7 start this year. Coming off a series sweep at then-No. 21 Virginia, Notre Dame exploded onto the national scene and found itself ranked in all of the major publications’ polls on March 15.

The Fighting Irish’s ascent has been expeditious. Since their entry into the rankings, the Irish haven’t lost a series––in fact, they haven’t dropped a series all season. Behind statistically the best defense in the country and a lineup anchored by power hitter Niko Kavadas, the Irish have put together a remarkable season. They arrive in Brighton as the No. 6 team in the country according to Baseball America, against a Boston College squad looking to put the train back on the track.

Series History:

The Irish hold a 31-16 record all-time against the Eagles. In Boston, Notre Dame is 13-8.

Location:

All three games will be played at the Harrington Athletics Village in Brighton, Mass.

Follow:

Games will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra. Fans can listen on WZBC radio for Friday’s game and 1120 AM/102.9 FM on Saturday and Sunday. Live stats can be found on BCEagles.com.

What to expect from Notre Dame:

Lineup

Finding a 2-3-4 batter sequence that matches the production of that of the Irish is a tall task. Left fielder Ryan Cole, first baseman Kavadas, and designated hitter Carter Putz constitute the heart of Notre Dame’s lineup, and all three are bonafide 3-hole hitters. Putz leads the trio with a .360 batting average, while Cole and Kavadas are not far behind at .355 and .329, respectively. All three boast an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) above .900, with Kavadas at a baffling mark of 1.353––one of the highest in the country. For comparison, that number would be the sixth-highest OPS of all time in the MLB, behind the likes of Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth. Kavadas also has hit the sixth-most home runs in the country with 13.

Pitching and Defense

Traditionally, defense isn’t included in a scouting report. For the Irish, it has to be. They lead the country in fielding percentage, posting a .988 fielding percentage so far this year. In 25 games, they’ve committed just 12 errors. 

The Irish’s brick wall of a defense undoubtedly has sustained their pitching staff’s ERA at 3.70, good for second-lowest in the ACC. Lefties Will Mercer and John Michael Bertrand are the Irish’s starters on Friday and Saturday, with earned run averages of 5.54 and 3.55 respectively over 25-plus innings each. 

Out of the bullpen, righty Tanner Kohlhepp is Notre Dame’s stopper––with a batting average against of .173 and an average of over one strikeout per inning, Kohlhepp has been bad news for the opposition’s batters all year.

Outlook:

Notre Dame hasn’t lost a series all season. The Fighting Irish come to Brighton as road warriors, with a 9-3 road record. They’re 4-0 in rubber matches and 6-0 after a loss. They’re 5-0 in night games. It’s hard to find flaws in Notre Dame’s stat sheet.

BC, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to finish games. The Eagles often get out to early leads before stumbling and watching it slip away. The talent on both sides of the ball is unquestionable—it’s only a matter of time before it all clicks. Expect a great series with two premier ACC Atlantic Division squads facing off in Brighton. Plus, the historic Holy War rivalry between the two makes it all the more interesting.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

April 23, 2021

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