The #7 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team finished up their homestand this week with four games. They started with a win against the Central Michigan Chippewas before winning two of three games in their weekend series against the NC State Wolfpack. Notre Dame sits in second place in the ACC Atlantic division, just 4 percentage points behind the Louisville Cardinals. The Irish remain the only team in the ACC who hasn’t lost a conference series this season.
Notre Dame 8 (16-6) - Central Michigan 4 (17-10)
Win: Alex Rao, ND (1-0)
Loss: J.T. Rogoszewski, CMU (1-2)
Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, scoring three runs in their first chance on offense. Carter Putz tripled to score Ryan Cole. Putz later scored on a double steal with Jack Zyska drawing the throw to second base. After moving to third on a throwing error Zyska scored on a single from Jack Brannigan. Central Michigan scored twice in the second inning to cut down the lead, but in the bottom half of the second Notre Dame got a run back when Danny Neri scored on a sacrifice fly.
The Irish padded the lead in the third inning. With the bases loaded Niko Kavadas scored on a passed ball before Kyle Hess doubled to drive in the two remaining baserunners. In the fourth inning Notre Dame made it eight runs, with Spencer Myers scoring on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Carter Putz. That score held until the eighth inning when Central Michigan scored two runs, ending the game with a score of 8-4. Alex Rao was the star of the game for the Irish on the mound, throwing 4.1 innings, allowing zero runs and striking out 5.
Game 1: Notre Dame 3 (17-6, 15-6) - NC State 2 (15-12, 8-11)
Win: Tanner Kohlhepp, ND (4-1)
Loss: Reid Johnston, NCSt (3-2)
NC State got their offense out of the way early on Friday, stringing together three hits to score two runs for the lead in the second inning. With two runners on base in the fourth inning, Jack Brannigan singled to score both runners and tie the game. In the eighth inning, with the score still tied 2-2, Notre Dame loaded the bases and again it was Jack Brannigan with a chance to drive in runs. Brannigan was hit in the elbow with a pitch, which brought in the leading run.
Tanner Kohlhepp shut the door in the ninth to hold on for the Irish win. Kohlhepp earned the win for Notre Dame, tossing four innings and allowing only one hit. Will Mercer started the game for Notre Dame and threw five innings, allowing only the two runs in the second inning.
Game 2: Notre Dame 2 (17-7, 15-7) - NC State 5 (16-12, 9-11)
Win: Sam Highfill, NCSt (3-2)
Loss: John Michael Bertrand, ND (3-1)
Save: Evan Justice, NCSt (2)
NC State again took the early lead, scoring two runs in the first inning and one each in the second and third. They held a 4-0 lead until the sixth inning when Notre Dame brought home two. With Ryan Cole and Niko Kavadas on base, Carter Putz doubled off the wall to score both runners. NC State scored another run in the eighth inning for the 5-2 lead and Notre Dame was unable to find anymore offense, setting up a rubber match on Sunday.
Game 3: Notre Dame 11 (18-7, 16-7) - NC State 2 (16-13, 9-12)
Win: Tanner Kohlhepp, ND (5-1)
Loss: Matt Willadsen, NCSt (3-1)
Save: Joe Sheridan, ND (3)
In the rubber game of the series, it was Notre Dame who scored first and it led to an offensive explosion for the Irish. Spencer Myers led off the bottom of the first with a single before moving to third on a hit and run with Niko Kavadas. Carter Putz drove in Myers with a single, followed by a double from Brooks Coetzee to score both Kavadas and Putz. NC State was able to cut into the Irish lead in the fifth inning with a solo home run, but Notre Dame went right back to work in the bottom half of the inning. Spencer Myers again led off with a hit, this time a double, and was again driven in by Putz with another double.
Notre Dame added to the lead in the very next inning. Brooks Coetzee scored on an attempted squeeze play that got passed the catcher for a steal of home. Zack Prajzner then hit a solo home run for a 6-1 Irish lead. In the seventh inning Notre Dame broke the game open. Ryan Cole scored on a throwing error before Jack Brannigan hit a three run home run for a 10-1 lead. NC State scored one in the top of the eighth inning, but Niko Kavadas put the finishing touches on the win with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, his 13th of the year, which is tied for second in the nation.
Notre Dame again had an excellent game from their pitching staff. Starter Aidan Tyrell went four innings allowing only one run on four hits. Tanner Kohlhepp threw two scoreless innings out of the bullpen before Joe Sheridan finished the game allowing the second Wolfpack run, but also giving up only two hits in three innings to earn in the save.
Notre Dame now heads out on the road for the first time since the first weekend in April. The Irish travel to Chestnut Hill, MA for a three game series against the Boston College Eagles April 23-25. Boston College currently sits in last place in the ACC, so Notre Dame will be looking to take advantage to strengthen their position at the top.