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Opponent Preview: Notre Dame

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Meet the Fighting Irish... A team that maximizes opportunities

Purdue Boilermakers v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Notre Dame

Mascot: Conor McGregor | School Location: South Bend, IN | Conference: ACC

2019 Record: 17-22 (10-11, 6th Atlantic) | 2018 RPI Rank: 129

2018 Record: 24-30 (12-18, 6th Atlantic) | 2018 RPI Rank: 102

2017 Record: 26-32 (10-20, 7th Atlantic) | 2017 RPI Rank: 121


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Frank Eck Stadium (South Bend, IN)

Game Time(s): Friday, Apr 26 @ 6:00pm; Saturday, Apr 27 @ 2:00pm; Sunday, Apr 28 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access

Live Stats: StatBroadcast (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)


Tell me about this team

First, let’s take a look at what was said about Notre Dame from our 2019 Season Preview:

Notre Dame needs to replace five of their top hitters from a year ago. SR OF Eric Gilgenbach (.270/.361/.506, 11 2B, 10 HR, 5 SB), SO 3B/OF Niko Kavadas (.299/.409/.445, 5 HR), and JR 1B/OF Daniel Jung (.274/.349/.405, 13 2B) are back to lead a rebuilt lineup. SO OF/INF Spencer Myers (.239/.330/.261, 4 SB) and SO C David LaManna (.234/.274/.281, 5 2B) also return with a good deal of starting experience under their belts. Gigantic multi-talented human being LHP Cole Kmet, the SO Closer and Notre Dame Football Tight End, should see opportunities with the bat this year. JUCO transfer JR INF Ethan Copeland should compete for a starting spot in the field. The Irish freshman class features seven position players, and they’re going to need a few of them to step up this year.

SO LHP Tommy Sheehan (2-4, 5.74 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, .271 OBA) returns as a weekend starter. JR RHP Cameron Junker (1-4, 8.74 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, .290 OBA), JR RHP Zack Martin (2-2, 1 SV, 4.60 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .255 OBA), and JR LHP Cameron Brown (2-2, 5.74 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .275 OBA) all have starting experience and are are candidates for starting roles this year. JR RHP Andrew Belcik (2-3, 3 SV, 4.93 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .226 OBA), SO LHP Cole Kmet (2-5, 8 SV, 5.05 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, .279 OBA), SO LHP Tommy Vail (3-2, 3.90 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, .231 OBA), JR RHP Jack Sheehan (0-0, 6.85 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, .340 OBA), and JR RHP Anthony Holubecki (3-2, 7.09 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, .308 OBA) return a ton of relief innings, but with incredibly mixed results. FR RHP Mitch Megias was a highly rated recruit and should get an opportunity for innings.

2019 Projected Record: 24-29 (8-22)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

Well these dudes are doing better than I thought they would be!

At the plate, this is a team with two guys who can mash taters, three guys who can swipe bags (although one of them is well below the Mendoza line), and then just a hodge-podge of other pieces that mix and match to fill in the gaps. As a team they’re slashing .247/.350/.347 with just 23 HR and a 186:326 BB:K rate. They’ve only reached double-digit runs in a game twice... This just isn’t an offense-heavy lineup. They’re a small-ball team, for sure; the only two offensive team stats that they rank inside the Top 75 nationally are Sac Bunts (21st) and Sac Flies (61st).

The weird part is that this isn’t a team that kills is on the mound, either, yet somehow their just one game under .500 in ACC play. The only team pitching stat that they’re inside the Top 75 in nationally is Strikeouts Per Nine Innings (63rd). The starting rotation has some effective, although unspectacular, arms and the bullpen has some really solid, top-line ACC guys... There just aren’t enough of them overall on the staff.

Still, as stated above, this is a team that’s still just one game under .500 in ACC play. That means they’re getting the most of the production their getting and still finding ways to be competitive an win games. You can’t sleep on this group.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: LHP Tommy Sheehan (SO)

Saturday: RHP Cameron Junker (JR)

Sunday: LHP Cameron Brown (JR)


Key Players:

Offense

3B Niko Kavadas (SO) - .279 BA, .371 OBP, .551 SLG, 147 AB, 10 2B, 0 3B, 10 HR, 25 R, 35 RBI, 19 BB, 39 K, 1-1 SB. Notre Dame’s two-hole hitter is a stocky 6’0, 240 pounder. Has had multiple hits in 8 of the last 13 games with 6 2B and 2 HR during that stretch. Strikeouts are a major problem for left-handed hitter.

DH Carter Putz (FR) - .281 BA, .361 OBP, .363 SLG, 135 AB, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 22 R, 17 RBI, 17 BB, 30 K, 3-3 SB. Putz was not a highly rated recruit, but he’s been the most productive freshman bat for the Irish.

CF Spencer Myers (SO) - .287 BA, .385 OBP, .307 SLG, 150 AB, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 39 R, 7 RBI, 23 BB, 29 K, 15-17 SB. Leadoff switch-hitter and one of three primary base-stealing threats on the team. Like Putz, Myers wasn’t a highly rated recruit coming out of high school, but he’s a cornerstone of the Irish offense now as their table-setter.

LF Jack Zyska (FR) - .254 BA, .338 OBP, .388 SLG, 67 AB, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 R, 15 RBI, 9 BB, 13 K, 2-3 SB. Only became a regular starter at very end of March, but has reached base safely in 15 of 16 starts since then. He’s also moved into the role as the team’s 3-hole hitter.

RF Eric Gilgenbach (SR) - .226 BA, .306 OBP, .432 SLG, 146 AB, 9 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 18 R, 33 RBI, 14 BB, 53 K, 5-6 SB. Gilgenbach is having a down year after a really good year last year (.270/.361/.506, 11 2B, 10 HR). He’s one of the two legit power hitters on this team (Kavadas), but he’s also extremely prone to strikeouts, as big power hitters usually are. Has three outfield assists this year.

Pitching

LHP Tommy Sheehan (SO) - 5-4, 4.55 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .282 OBA, 15.2 K%, 5.3 BB%, 65.1 IP, 73 H, 44 R, 33 ER, 15 BB, 43 K. Sheehan is your typical crafty left-hander. Threw complete games against Clemson and Virginia this year. When his stuff is on, he’s very hard to make hard contact on. Sheehan started the Saturday game against State last year, pitching decently well until running into trouble and ultimately finishing with a line of: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 1 K.

RHP Cameron Junker (JR) - 2-2, 3.67 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .237 OBA, 22.2 K%, 8.0 BB%, 54.0 IP, 47 H, 25 R, 22 ER, 18 BB, 50 K. A 6’5, 220 lbs righty from a Moeller HS (Cincinnati, OH) that has treated NC State baseball well over the years (Andrew Brackman, Eric Surkamp). Has worked at least 5.0 innings in 8 of his 10 starts. Most recently pitched 7.0 shutout innings at Pittsburgh last weekend. Started the series finale last year versus State, getting chased quickly and finishing with a line of: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K.

LHP Cameron Brown (JR) - 2-5, 6.34 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, .307 OBA, 24.7 K%, 10.5 BB%, 55.1 IP, 71 H, 47 R, 39 ER, 28 BB, 66 K. Brown has had some really rough starts, but last Sunday at Pittsburgh went 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K in getting the win. He’s not currently listed as the starter for the Sunday game this week, but I can’t imagine they wouldn’t throw him after that performance.

LHP Tommy Vail (SO) - 2-1, 3 SV, 3.71 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, .146 OBA, 34.9 K%, 13.2 BB%, 26.2 IP, 13 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 14 BB, 37 K. Vail was good last year as a freshman, but he’s been something else this year. The top Irish bullpen arm, aside from a couple bad outings, he’s been lights out.

RHP Andrew Belcik (JR) - 0-3, 1 SV, 4.00 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, .229 OBA, 24.8 K%, 12.4 BB%, 27.0 IP, 24 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 16 BB, 32 K. 6’3, 236 lbs top righty arm out of the bullpen, a year after leading the Irish in appearances. He’s solid, although control can be an issue (45 BB, 13 HBP, 13 WP in 74.0 career IP).

LHP Cole Kmet (SO) - 0-2, 2 SV, 2.89 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .224 OBA, 37.5 K%, 4.2 BB%, 18.2 IP, 15 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 27 K. Kmet, Notre Dame’s starting tight end on the football team, was the closer last year (8 SV). He made one start this year, dominating Ball State, but hasn’t pitched in over a month and a half. Pitched in the Friday and Sunday games against State last year, going two shutout innings in the Friday game and earning the save and then getting blasted for four runs in two innings on Sunday.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Go get your series history from GoPack.com, with their cool new feature that I’m glad they’re keeping going.

NC State is 11-6 all-time against Notre Dame, but just 2-4 in South Bend.

During one 20-game stretch of the season, Notre Dame alternated wins and losses in every game.

Against common opponents (Wake Forest, Florida State, Virginia, Michigan State, Pittsburgh), NC State is 9-4 while Notre Dame is 6-7.


Prediction

Road games are tough, and NC State hasn’t exactly been surging of late. On paper, this looks like just the series that State needs to get back on the right track... but this could well be a trap series.

Outcome: State stuggles against Sheehan’s junk in the Friday opener, but still wins two-of-three to take the series.