After both teams won their opening games in the South Bend Regional, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team took on the UCONN Huskies for the right to advance to the Regional Final. From start to finish it was all Notre Dame, and this game was over long before the final out was recorder.
Notre Dame 26 - UCONN 3
Win: Will Mercer, ND
Loss: Ben Casparius, UCONN
Notre Dame picked up right where they left off Friday when Spencer Myers led off the game reaching base on a hit by pitch. Ryan Cole then walked and Jared Miller singled to score Myers. Carter Putz singled to load the bases and then Niko Kavadas came up to the plate with one out. Kavadas stayed scorching hot, and despite getting jammed, muscled a grand slam to the opposite field, hitting the scoreboard in left field. UCONN was able to string a couple of hits together in the second inning and after two the Irish held a 5-1 lead.
Is 3 home runs in less than 2 full games good, asking for a friend?— Notre Dame Baseball (@NDBaseball) June 5, 2021
Check out @nikkavadas22's grand slam that added a dent to the scoreboard!
ESPN3 (https://t.co/Y36uEe7byj)#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/jl5G4GmCxy
Notre Dame went back to work in the third inning, hitting two home runs to extend their lead. Carter Putz led off the inning with a solo home run and after Kavadas singled David LaManna hit a two run home run. UCONN added another run in the bottom half of the inning to make it an 8-2 Irish lead. Kavadas came up again with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and this time he walked to drive in another run. Brooks Coetzee and David LaManna then singled in back to back at bats to bring home three more runs, 12-2 Notre Dame after four.
In the fifth inning Jared Miller singled home Ryan Cole, 13-2 Irish after five. TJ Williams, pinch hitting for Spencer Myers in the sixth inning, walked with the bases loaded to drive in another run. Ryan Cole followed that up with a bases clearing double to drive in three more. 17-2 after six. Notre Dame was held without a run in the seventh inning, but Brooks Coetzee hit a solo home run in the eighth inning for the 18th Irish run. UCONN added a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning, 18-3 after eight. In the ninth inning Notre Dame kept adding. Jack Brannigan singled home a run before Kavadas followed that up with his fourth home run of the two games, driving in three. With two runners on later in the inning TJ Williams singled to drive in another run. Ryan Cole followed that up with a three run home run for the 26th and final Irish run of the night.
The story of the game was most certainly the Irish offense, specifically Niko Kavadas, but Notre Dame had another stellar pitching performance from Will Mercer today. He threw seven innings and allowed only two runs, while the Notre Dame defense was once again on top of their game, helping Mercer and the bullpen get out of the rare trouble they found themselves in. TJ Williams, who has played sparingly this season behind Myers, made a spectacular catch against the wall in centerfield to save a run. It was an all around dominating performance from Notre Dame and it puts them in excellent position moving forward in the Regional.
UCONN now falls into the elimination bracket where they will face the Central Michigan Chippewas, who advance after eliminating the Michigan Wolverines earlier today. Notre Dame will play in the second game of the regional tomorrow against the winner of the first. Should Notre Dame win that matchup, they advance to the Super Regional. Should they lose, there will be a deciding game on Monday.