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Opponent Preview: Notre Dame

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Meet the Fighting Irish... A program that has catapulted in a short time under JT’s dad

Notre Dame v North Carolina Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Notre Dame

Mascot: Angry folk from the Emerald Isle | School Location: South Bend, IN | Conference: ACC

2021 Record: 16-6 (14-6, 1st Atlantic) | 2021 RPI Rank: 17

2020 Record: 11-2 (3-0, T-1st Atlantic) | 2020 RPI Rank: 31

2019 Record: 24-30 (13-17, 6th Atlantic) | 2019 RPI Rank: 101


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Frank Eck Stadium (South Bend, IN)

Game Time(s): Fri, Apr 16 @ 5:00pm | Sat, Apr 17 @ 2:00pm | Sun, Apr 18 @ 1:00pm

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

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Live Stats: StatBroadcast (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)


Tell me about this team

The immediate turnaround of the Notre Dame baseball program under Link Jarrett has been nothing short of amazing. This wasn’t a surge buoyed by an absurdly lauded freshman class (a la Miami) or a slew of JUCO transfers (the Campbell method), although there are a few grad transfers making impacts. Jarrett took the players on campus and just simply made them better... immediately. That’s an impressive job, and if the success can be maintained, the Florida State alum and father of NC State’s JT Jarrett (bet you didn’t know that!) will find himself fielding calls from some of the nation’s elite programs.

Typically when you see a new coach take over and find immediate success it’s because the style of play has significantly changed and the existing personnel just so happen to fit that scheme. That hasn’t really been the case here. They are slightly more aggressive on the bases, but that’s as much Spencer Myers as anything else (he’s accounted for 30% of ND’s stolen base attempts over the last three seasons), and the increase in HR rate this year can be solely attributed to Niko Kavadas (12 HR in 72 AB). The Fighting Irish are more willing to play for the big inning under Jarrett, utilizing the sacrifice bunt less than previously under Mik Aoki.

Pitching hasn’t been substantially different. A slight uptick in K%, a slight decrease in OBP. The big difference there - call it skill or luck - has been an ability to significantly cut the opponent’s slugging percentage. Avoiding giving up extra base hits will, it turns out, greatly increase your ability to keep the other team from putting runs on the board. That has directly correlated to a marked drop in ERA (5.87 in 2018, 5.01 in 2019, 3.77 in 2020, 3.80 in 2021).

The one other thing that is different, as you’d expect from a team coached by the man that produced JT, is a marked increase in defense efficiency. Not only has the fielding percentage increased, the team also plays a style that typically pushes teams into avoiding the sacrifice.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: LHP Will Mercer (JR)

Saturday: TBD

Sunday: TBD


Key Players:

Offense

1B Niko Kavadas (SR) - .333/.490/.903, 5 2B, 12 HR, 20 R, 32 RBI, 23 BB, 17 K, 1-1 SB. Kavadas was a guy with a serious power stroke from the left side, but the 6’1, 235 pounder has taken it to a new level this year. He’s a mid-season Golden Spikes Award candidate.

RF Ryan Cole (SR) - .373/.500/.667, 3 2B, 4 HR, 14 R, 12 RBI, 11 BB, 10 K, 4-5 SB. A prime example of a player whose play has jumped significantly under Jarrett. Slashed .190/.336/.260 with a 17:29 BB:K rate over his first two years. Slashing .333/.444/.560 with a 12:17 BB:K rate over the last two years.

DH Carter Putz (JR) - .337/.402/.506, 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 18 R, 15 RBI, 10 BB, 15 K, 2-2 SB. MLB Draft prospect, but his lacking defensive abilities will limit his stock significantly.

2B Jared Miller (SR) - .333/.408/.556, 5 2B, 3 HR, 19 R, 11 RBI, 5 BB, 11 K, 6-7 SB. Listed as day-to-day with an wrist injury, but he hasn’t played since April 4th. Was having a breakout year before the injury.

Pitching

LHP Will Mercer (JR) - 1-0, 1 SV, 6.00 ERA, 21.0 IP, 27 H, 6 BB, 22 K. Missed all of the 2019 season due to Tommy John Surgery. Really more of an opener for this team as he’s yet to work past the 4th inning in any start this year and is typically more of a 2-to-3 inning guy.

LHP John Bertrand (SR) - 3-0, 3.07 ERA, 41.0 IP, 27 H, 12 BB, 33 K. Has been ND’s Saturday starter for most of the season, but is battling arm soreness and missed last weekend. Has gone 7.0+ IP in each of his last five starts. Graduate transfer from Furman after they disbanded their baseball program. Was a three-year starter for the Paladins and in 2020 went 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA over 6 starts, 24.0 IP, 16 H, 4 BB, 23 K.

LHP Joe Sheridan (SR) - 1-2, 2 SV, 3.67 ERA, 27.0 IP, 29 H, 8 BB, 18 K. Graduate transfer from UCF, where he was a Freshman All-American in 2017, but battled a torn labrum that hampered his 2018 season and wiped out his 2019 season due to surgery.

RHP Tanner Kohlhepp (SO) - 3-1, 1 SV, 2.55 ERA, 24.2 IP, 15 H, 10 BB, 27 K. Transfer from Tennessee via Iowa Western JUCO. Highly regarded infield prospect out of high school who made the move to pitching and seems to finally be clicking.

RHP Alex Rao (JR) - 1-0, 2 SV, 0.87 ERA, 20.2 IP, 8 H, 10 BB, 22 K. An ineffective reliever over his first two seasons, Rao has hit a higher level this season and is a top bullpen arm. Used more as a follower than a true reliever as he’s gone 3.0+ innings in four of his six appearances. Control is still an issue.


Quick! Fun Facts!

17 different states are represented on Notre Dame’s roster, although none come from the great state of North Carolina.

Despite being 367-357 over the 13 seasons prior to Jarrett taking over Notre Dame, the program was 851-329-3 over the 19 seasons before that under Pat Murphy and Paul Mainieri, two of college baseball’s legendary coaches. The Irish made an NCAA Regional 12 of the last 15 years under Murphy and Mainieri, including a CWS appearance in 2002.

Did you know Link Jarrett is the father of NC State’s JT Jarrett? I bet you didn’t.

Notre Dame has four active MLB players (Cavan Biggio, TOR; David Phelps, TOR; AJ Pollock, LAD; Trey Mancini, BAL).


Prediction

This is going to be a tough one. If Bertrand is out or less than 100%, I like State’s chances of taking the series. If he’s back at 100%, things get dicey.

Outcome: Dad gets the best of son with Link and Notre Dame taking two of three from JT and NC State.