The Notre Dame baseball team won its opening series 2-1 with a strong offensive weekend against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Feb. 14-16.
In Birmingham, head coach Link Jarrett led his team to a 4-2 win in his first game at the program’s helm behind junior left-handed pitcher Tommy Sheehan’s career-high nine strikeouts. Sheehan threw seven scoreless innings and didn’t allow a hit until the sixth. That performance earned him ACC Pitcher of the Week honors, picking up where he left off from a strong junior campaign. In the 2019 season, Sheehan threw a team-high 92.1 innings, including seven or more innings on six occasions.
On the offensive side, junior Niko Kavadas scored the first run of the contest from an RBI single from sophomore Zach Prajzner in the seventh inning. The Irish scored their other three runs (one more in the seventh and two in the eighth) on wild pitches. UAB didn’t score until the bottom of the eighth, butIrish closer Joe Boyle quelled a late comeback bid and the Irish won 4-2.
The following day, the Irish dropped the second contest of the series 10-7. Prajzner set a strong tone with a three-run homer in the top of the first, but UAB responded with a two-run first inning and three-run second inning to take a 5-3 lead. The Irish fell behind 6-3 in the fifth inning but tied the score in the sixth. The Blazers pulled away with a grand slam in the seventh inning to take a 10-6 lead. Sophomore Jack Zyska added a solo home run in the ninth to cut the UAB lead to 10-7, but the Irish failed to close the margin any further.
Notre Dame clinched the series with a 9-3 victory on day three through a dominant offensive performance. Junior David LaManna drove in two runs with a double in the second inning, and junior Niko Kavadas drove in another on a deep fly ball to make the score 3-0. UAB evened it with a three-run third inning, but Kavadas got ahold of his first home run of the season, a two-run shot that gave Notre Dame a 5-3 lead.
Lefty pitcher Will Mercer started on the mound, allowing two hits in three innings. Sophomore Mitch Megias was credited with the win after a career-high three-inning performance with no hits and one walk. He combined with juniors Tommy Vail and Boyle to retire the Blazers’ final 17 batters.
Over the course of the series, the Irish outscored UAB 20-15, and Jarrett’s squad held a 2-1 record after his first opening weekend with the program. The Fighting Irish continued their early season dominance to the tune of an 11-2 record, the team’s best start to a season since 2015 (11-1), but their season was cut short due to the NCAA’s concerns over the coronavirus.