by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)
In the much anticipated series between two of the best teams in the ACC Coastal Division, it is still unclear who the better team is. Louisville and Notre Dame split the first two games before the rubber match was postponed due to anticipated wind speeds in the area. It was suggested that the teams play a doubleheader on Saturday, but the home team did not appear to favor that decision. Although the game was cancelled, the Cardinals were able to practice on Notre Dame’s field on Sunday afternoon.
When Louisville has the opportunity to start Michael Kirian, followed by Adam Elliott and Kaleb Corbett, they will be tough to beat, which was the case on Friday night. Kirian did not have his best stuff, walking six batters, but was able to hold the hot Notre Dame offense to three runs in 4.2 innings before turning things over to the bullpen. Elliott (W, 3-1) gave up just one run in his three innings of work. Corbett (S, 4) came in to close out the game for the Cards, increasing his scoreless streak to 16 innings to begin his freshman campaign.
At the plate, Louisville recorded eight hits by eight different batters, led by Alex Binelas with 4 RBI, including a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Niko Kavadas continued his hot streak to begin the season, leading the way for the Fighting Irish with a no-doubter in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull Notre Dame within a run. Louisville would go on to score two more runs in the ninth inning to win by a final score of 7-4. Spencer Myers and Carter Putz each added two hits apice for the Irish. Joe Sheridan (L, 0-1) entered the weekend as one of the top relievers for Coach Jarrett’s rotation, earned his first start of the season against the Cardinals. He had not given up a single run during his first 14.1 innings, but surrendered five runs in five innings of work.
Both teams showed on Saturday why they are two of the best in the ACC, battling it out until the last pitch. Ryan Cole hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to take game two, 5-3 in favor of the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame’s most consistent starting pitcher, John Bertrand, kept Louisville in check for seven innings, allowing just two runs on five hits. Binelas homered for the second day in a row, this time with a towering shot in the ninth inning to tie the game. He led the Cardinals at the plate with two hits, raising his average to .235, the highest of the season.
Louisville was without their Saturday starter, Glenn Albanese (3-0, 1.76 ERA) who was out with a minor injury, but Luke Seed stepped up in a major way. Seed, in only his second weekend start, tossed 6.2 innings, allowing just four hits and one run before Coach McDonell questionably turned the game over to the bullpen. Tate Kuehner (L, 1-3) gave up the home run in the bottom of the ninth innings to Cole, who led the Irish with two hits.
Jack Brannigan (W, 1-0) who also had two hits at the plate, picked up his first victory of the year after taking over in the ninth inning, stranding two inherited baserunners to end the frame. Entering the game, Notre Dame was on a 20 game losing streak to Louisville with their last win coming May 21, 2011. The Irish were also able to keep Henry Davis hitless, breaking his 23 game hitting streak, the second longest in school history.
Although we did not see the series finale, it would not surprise me to see these two meetup again in the conference tournament at the end of May. It will not get easier for either team going forward as Louisville returns home to face a Wake Forest team that just won a series in Tallahassee against Florida State. Notre Dame will spend next weekend at Pittsburgh, a club that will be hungry after being swept by Virginia Tech.