The Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team finally returned to the field this weekend, looking to pick up where they left off after a hot start to the shortened last season. They did just that, travelling to Winston Salem, NC for a road series with the 16 ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons, winning 2 of 3 games and held the lead in all but one inning.
Game 1: Notre Dame 8 (0-1, 0-1) - Wake Forest 10 (3-2, 1-0)
Win: Cole McNamee, WF (1-0)
Loss: Tanner Kohlhepp, ND (0-1)
Save: Camden Minacci, WF (2)
Notre Dame jumped out to the early lead, wasting no time getting on the board in their first inning of the season. Niko Kavadas, with Jared Miller on base, launched a home run to center field for the 2-0 lead. Wake Forest pulled one back in the second with an infield single with the bases loaded. In the third inning Kavadas came up again, this time with two runners on, and hit his second home run of the game to give Notre Dame a 5-1 lead.
Niko Kavadas with an absolute off Wake RHP Ryan Cusick.— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) February 27, 2021
MLB scouts say Kavadas has some of the best power in the college class.
Cusick has the top fastball.
Best Tools: https://t.co/sY7FkCTVZf
Wake came back in the sixth with a home run, but Notre Dame was tight back on the offensive in the seventh. David LaManna came up to bat with the bases loaded and singled to score two for a 7-2 lead. Wake then homered twice in the seventh to score three runs and cut the deficit to 7-5. Spencer Myers hit a sacrifice fly scoring Zack Prajzner in the eighth for an 8-5 lead but Wake Forest cam back strong in the bottom half of the inning. They scored five runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the 10-8 lead. Notre Dame couldn’t respond in the final inning and Wake Forest came away with the win, but Notre Dame wouldn’t trail again all weekend.
This was a tough game to lose for Notre Dame, considering they held the lead until the final two innings. The offense was strong all day though and the pitching, outside of one five run inning, was solid as well. The blow of losing game one late was softened by winning the next two though.
Game 2: Notre Dame 5 (1-1, 1-1) - Wake Forest 4 (3-3, 1-1)
Win: Liam Simon, ND (1-0)
Loss: Crawford Wade, WF (0-1)
Save: Aidan Tyrell, ND (1)
Notre Dame started hot again in game two of the double header, scoring again in the first inning. This time graduate transfer Alex Brait, in his first at bat with the Irish, came up with the bases loaded and hit a grand slam for the quick 4-0 lead. Wake forest slowly chipped away at the lead, scoring one run each in the second and third and then two in the fourth to tie the game.
In the seventh inning Notre Dame took the lead for good when David LaManna walked to open the inning and later came around to score on a wild pitch. The bullpen, which blew game one, was the story of game two for the Irish. Liam Simon pitched 3.1 scoreless inning in relief for to earn the win and Aidan Tyrell pitched the final two innings, allowing just one baserunner and earning the save.
Game 3: Notre Dame 10 (2-1, 2-1) - Wake Forest 0 (3-4, 1-2)
Win: Christian Scafidi, ND (1-0)
Loss: Shane Smith, WF (0-1)
Save: Alex Rao (1)
For the third time in the series Notre Dame jumped out to a lead in the first inning. Both Jared Miller and David LaManna singled to score a run each and the Irish added a third run when scored on an Alex Brait ground out. In the third inning Brooks Coetzee came up with the bases loaded and drove in all three runners with a drive to the left field wall. Coetzee doubled again in the fifth to drive in two more runs for an 8-0 lead.
Notre Dame added the final punctuation to the day in the sixth. David LaManna singled with the bases loaded to score two more for the 10-0 lead. Not to be outdone by the offense, Notre Dame’s pitchers were phenomenal all day as well. In his first start for Notre Dame, grad transfer Christian Scafidi threw 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. Alex Rao came on in relief in the fifth and pitched the final 4.2 innings. He allowed just three batters to reach base. The combined shutout was the first time Wake Forest had been blanked since April 2018. In all it was a fairly dominant weekend for Notre Dame and a phenomenal start to the season.
Notre Dame remains on the road for their next series as they travel to South Carolina for a conference series with the Clemson Tigers.