The Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team finally returned to play in South Bend this weekend in their home opening series against the Duke Blue Devils. Notre Dame, who has climbed all the way to the #15 ranked team in the country after their hot start, took the first two games to clinch the series win before dropping the final game, improving to 9-3 in the process.
Game 1: Notre Dame 6 (8-2, 8-2) - Duke (7-7, 3-4)
Win: Tanner Kohlhepp, ND (1-1)
Loss: Matt Dockman, Duke (0-1)
Notre Dame scored first in the bottom of the third inning, taking advantage of several Duke errors. Jack Brannigan scored the first run of the game on a throwing error by the pitcher and Spencer Myers, who reached on the error, later scored on a groundout by Jared Miller. The next inning though, the top of the fourth, Duke put up all of their offense in the game, scoring four runs for a 4-2 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth inning though Notre Dame tied the game. Jared Miller led off the inning with a walk before Niko Kavadas drove a home run down the right filed line to tie things up at 4. There was no more offense in the 9 innings and the game went to extras. It took until the bottom of the 13th inning for another run to score and it was Notre Dame who ended the game with a walk-off. Niko Kavadas led off the inning with a double before being pinch run for. Pinch runner TJ Williams was advanced to third, bringing up Ryan Cole, who hit a home run to left field on the first pitch he saw for the game winning runs.
The Notre Dame bullpen was spectacular in game one. Joe Sheridan and Tanner Kohlhepp combined to pitch the final 9.1 innings of the game, walking none and allowing just one extra base hit. They didn’t allow a run, giving the Notre Dame bats the chance to get back into, and ultimately win, the game.
The home opener was a long one but a good one!!— Notre Dame Baseball (@NDBaseball) March 20, 2021
As you settle into your morning coffee, check out all the top plays from Friday's 6-4 win in extras!!
Spoiler - you will like how it ends!!#GoIrish x #Rally pic.twitter.com/JiL3rtImkQ
Game 2: Notre Dame (9-2, 9-2) - Duke 2 (7-8, 3-5)
Win: John Michael Bertrand, ND (3-0)
Loss: Henry Williams, Duke (2-1)
Notre Dame scored first again in game 2, this time in the fourth inning. Jared Miller led off the inning by legging out a double before advancing to third on a balk. Niko Kavadas then hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track for the first run of the game. Duke responded in the sixth inning with a two-run home run to take the lead.
The Irish weren’t done yet though and they responded immediately in the bottom half of the sixth. With runners on the corners Niko Kavadas hit another home run, this time to the opposite field for his seventh home run of the season. After David LaManna reached base, Ryan Cole hit a line drive to center field that skipped over the head of the Duke fielder. Cole raced all the way around the bases and slid just under the tag at home for an inside-the-park home run and a 6-2 Notre Dame lead.
John Michael Bertrand started and finished the game for Notre Dame, throwing his first career complete game. He allowed only two runs on a home run and struck out 6. More importantly though he shut down the Blue Devils after Notre Dame took the lead, allowing only two hits over the final three innings of the game.
Game 3: Notre Dame 0 (9-3, 9-3) - Duke 2 (8-8, 4-5)
Win: Jack Carey, Duke (1-0)
Loss: Aidan Tyrell, ND (1-1)
Game three was a quiet one, with only two runs scoring, both by Duke. The first run of the game came home on a sacrifice fly in the first inning and the second run was scored by a solo home run from RJ Schreck in the second inning. That was all the offense for the game, as Ryan Cole managed the only hit for Notre Dame. It was however another strong performance from the Notre Dame bullpen, as Alex Rao and Tanner Kohlhepp managed to combine for six scoreless innings with only 1 hit and 6 strikeouts.
Notre Dame has their first midweek matchup of the season as they host the Valparaiso Crusaders on Tuesday March 23. The Louisville Cardinals then come to South Bend from March 26-28 for a series between the top two teams in the ACC Atlantic division.