After spending the first few weeks of the season on the road, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team finally returned home to South Bend for their first series of the season in Frank Eck Stadium. They met the #6 ranked Louisville Cardinals, who entered the weekend 18-2 and near the top of the conference standings. Notre Dame proved up to the task though, winning the first two games and the series with a combination of good pitching and timely hitting before Louisville’s quality shone through in game three to avoid the sweep.
Game 1: Notre Dame 4 (11-8, 3-4) - Louisville 3 (18-3, 2-2)
Win: Aidan Tyrell, ND (3-1)
Loss: Ryan Hawks, UL (4-1)
Louisville came into the series and got things started early, scoring two runs in the top of the second inning for a 2-0 lead. Notre Dame started a bit slower, but when they got going they really got going. In the fifth inning the Irish finally got on the board with three runs on consecutive doubles from Zack Prajzner and Jack Zyska. When the fifth inning was over the Irish led 3-2.
Immediately after Notre Dame took the lead Louisville came back to tie the game in the top half of the sixth inning. The Irish answered right back in the bottom half though on a solo home run from Estevan Moreno. Aidan Tyrell came in to pitch for Notre Dame to get the final out of the sixth inning and he threw the final three innings scoreless to hold on for the 4-3 Irish win.
Game 2: Notre Dame 5 (12-8, 4-4) - Louisville 4 (18-4, 2-3)
Win: Jack Findlay, ND (4-0)
Loss: Will Koger, UL (2-1)
Save: Will Mercer, ND (2)
Game two started the same as game one, with Louisville scoring early and Notre Dame taking some time to get the bats going. The Cardinals scored a single run in the 1st, 4th, and 5th innings and had a 3-0 advantage before the Irish got on the board. Notre Dame answered in the bottom half of the fifth inning though getting all five of their runs in the frame. Jack Penney started the scoring with his team leading fourth home run of the year, a solo home run to make it a 3-1 game. Later in the inning, with runners on first and second Carter Putz hit a home run to the batter’s eye in straight away center field. Brooks Coetzee was up next and he made it back-to-back home runs and three in the inning, giving the Irish a 5-3 lead.
Louisville was able to get another run in the eighth inning to make it close but they couldn’t come all the way back and Notre Dame held on for the win. Jack Findlay started the game for Notre Dame and was excellent again, throwing 5.1 innings and striking out 9 Cardinals. Will Mercer pitched the final two innings of the game for Notre Dame to earn his second save of the year.
Game 3: Notre Dame 1 (12-9, 4-5) - Louisville 2 (19-4, 3-3)
Win: Carson Liggett, UL (5-0)
Loss: Radek Birkholz, ND (0-2)
Save: Tate Kuehner, UL (3)
Game three was much quieter in comparison to the first two, with the pitching the highlight for both teams. Louisville scored one run on a ground out in the top of the third inning and Notre Dame later tied the game on another groundout in the bottom of the fourth. The game was decided in the sixth inning when Louisville scored the winning run on a hit by pitch with the bases loaded.
The Irish offense was held to only four hits by three players on the day, but the pitching was strong. Five Irish pitchers combined for nine strikeouts while allowing only eight hits. Unfortunately they also allowed four walks and that was enough for the Cardinals to find the difference on the scoreboard.
Notre Dame remains in South Bend this week with a Tuesday game against the Butler Bulldogs. Over the weekend the North Carolina Tar Heels visit South Bend for an ACC conference series.