There is nothing like an NCAA Championship Tournament regardless of the sport. After a season of transformation, the Fightin’ Irish took the field at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish are also the South Bend Regional top seed. After a disappointing ACC Tournament, the Fightin’ Irish had fire in their belly. That emotion showed in game one of the NCAA Baseball Championship against the CMU Chippewas. The most important thing for any one team to do in this tournament is to win game one. Staying in the “winners bracket” during the regional is the shortest path to advancing. I almost failed to mention the attendance of the game. Max capacity was achieved for the opening game of the event with 1,825 in the stands. This is the largest attendance at the Eck this season.
Innings One Through Three
The first three innings was a pitching duel between Andrew Taylor of CMU and John Bertrand for Notre Dame. Both pitchers allowed only one hit through three innings of play. Bertrand through three innings allowed only one walk (first inning) and two hits (2nd and 3rd innings). Taylor did manage to rack up five strikeouts (all swinging). That included striking out all three Irish batters in the second inning. Taylor did allow and one hit (3rd inning) by Spencer Myers. Both pitchers did not flinch in the the opening segment of the game. But that was about to change.
Innings Four Through Six
Bertrand continued his solid performance on the mound. In the inning, Bertrand racked up two strike outs (one looking and one swinging) and allowed only one hit to right field. This set the stage that was about to happen for the Fightin’ Irish in their half of the fourth inning.
Jared Miller led of the inning with a triple to Right Centerfield. Carter Putz grounded out to to the shortstop and allowing Miller to score and put the Irish 1-0. Jack Brannigan singled to shortstop on a great hustle down the first baseline. Nick Kavadas who has been struggling a bit, drives a blast to Right Center Field for a homerun and collecting two RBI’s. The Irish lead grows to 3-0. Brooks Coetzee not to be left out, rips a shot down the Left Field line for a double. Coetzee ends up getting caught stealing third to empty the bases. The Irish draw first blood and score 3 runs, on 4 hits and the bases empty. That’s the fire in the belly showing for the first time on offense.
Bertrand remained focused in the fifth inning. Building his confidence by throwing a 0 run, 1 hit and forcing the Chippewas to leave a man on base. This is the performance that Bertrand was looking for in a bounce back from the ACC Tournament loss.
In the Irish portion of the bottom of the fifth inning, the bats came alive again. Zack Prajzner led off with a single to Center Field. Myers reached on a fielder’s choice as Prajzner is thrown out at second base. Ryan Cole doubled the Right Field line, collecting an RBI as Myers scores from second base. In the inning, the Irish scored 1 run, 2 hits, 0 left on base.
Bertrand was building confidence and momentum as he completed the mid-section of the game. Though Zach Gilles reached on an error, Bertrand worked himself out the jam once again. Bertrand kept clean once again, allowing 0 runs, 0 hits, and 0 left on base.
Once again, the Fightin’ Irish were ready to flex some muscle. Once again, the power started from the lead-off batter. Brannigan tripled to Left Center to start. Kavadas homered on another monster shot to Center Field and two more RBI’s and score of 6-0. Coetzee singled to first base on an awesome hustle out of the batters box. That would end the day for the Chippewas. Logan Buczkowski takes over for CMU.
The first pitch that Buczkowski throws is met by David LaManna’s bat. The is driven over the the Right Field wall. LaManna collects two RBI’s and an 8-0 lead. Myers singles up the middle after Prajzner flied out. Myers taking advantage of the situation steals second base successfully. Cole wanted in on the long ball action and drives a shot over the Left Field wall. Scoring Myers from second base, Cole racked up two RBI’s as well and a score of 10-0. Buczkowski only lasted 1/3 of the inning before being replaced by Ryan Palmblad. The Irish would finish the inning with 6 runs, on 6 hits and 0 left on base. Three homeruns in the inning fueled by 2 RBI’s each.
Innings Seven Through Nine
Bertrand is now rolling in the last block of the game. Bertrand collected a strike out looking and fueled a three up and three down quick seventh inning for the Irish. Palmblad did not allow the Irish to score in the inning. He allowed 1 hit, 0 runs and 1 left on base. This is the first time since the third inning that the Irish did not score in an inning.
Bertrand is seeing the end in sight, ratcheted his game up a notch. While only allowed only a hard hit single up the middle. Bertrand was able to get hard line out to Brannigan at third base. A double play ball concluded the seventh inning defense for the Irish. 0 runs, on 1 hit and 0 left on base. Ben Vitas took over for Palmblad in the eighth inning. The fourth pitcher for CMU. Vitas made short work off the Irish, allowing only a lead off walk to Prajzner. Vitas collected a ground out and two ground outs to aid the Chippewas defense.
Bertrand is only three outs away from a complete game shutout. Bertrand is successful in doing just that as he strikes out the side to complete the game. Two strikeouts left the batters looking at strike three and the last batter swinging. Bertrand and LaManna celebrate as he gets the win and the complete game shutout.
Bertrand throws the complete game shutout on 108 pitches on 76 strikes thrown. the breakdown of that stat equates to: 6 strikeouts, 5 hits, 1 walk, 9 fly outs, 10 ground outs. Brannigan 3-4, Kavadas 2-4, 2 HR’s 4 RBI’s, Cole 2-5, double, HR, 3 RBI’s, Myers 2-4, Coetzee 2-4 double, LaManna 1 HR and 2 RBI’s, and Miller 1-5.
Next Up For The Irish
Next up for the Irish is the UConn Huskies. The Huskies stayed in the winners bracket as they defeated Michigan in the second game Friday evening 6-1. The Huskies will not be an easy game for the Irish. UConn has a pretty lineup and a great pitching staff as well. The scheduled first pitch is 6:06 PM EST and the game can be seen on ESPN3. Notre Dame will be the away team in this one. The Irish will want to win this game and stay away from having to play out of the losers bracket. The first to three wins, wins the South Bend Regional of the tournament.
Cheers and Go Irish!☘⚾🌩