As the team jogged off the diamond after securing their first midweek win of the season and their seventh in a row, everything seemed to be going right for Notre Dame baseball and first-year Head Coach Link Jarrett at the start of the 2020 season. The 9-8 away victory over Radford moved the No. 24 ranked Irish to 11-2 on the season and marked the 10th time out of their 11 wins that the offense scored eight or more runs. After three straight disappointing, losing seasons, and five out of the last six under former skipper Mik Aoki, Jarrett and his team seemed to have turned the page on the team’s recent losing ways.
Notre Dame baseball hadn’t been ranked since the 2015 season, which was also the last time the team made it to the NCAA tournament. While it may not have come as a surprise to most people when the team opted for a coaching change, not many were expecting the Irish to come out as hot as they did. It’s a testament to the determination and hard work of the entire team, coupled with their willingness to trust and buy into the program of a new head coach.
For the uninformed, that’s not always the easiest thing to do.
Jarrett’s resume speaks for itself: He began his career as a four-time starter at shortstop for Florida State, was drafted by the Rockies and was former head coach of UNC Greensboro, a team he helped win over 34 games in each of the previous four seasons and took to their first NCAA Tournament in over two decades. His main task was revamping a notoriously poor offense, and the proof is in the pudding in terms of how he fared. The team batting average of .303 was 25th best nationally, and their 8.9 runs per game was the ninth-best ratio in the country. Juniors Niko Kavadas and Spencer Myers had a lot to do with Notre Dame’s offensive success. Kavadas, one of the team’s captains and first baseman, led the team with seven home runs and 17 runs batted in, while Myers produced a .431 batting average and led the country in steals with 15, despite being known for his defensive play in center field.
Also notable during the Irish’s strong start, highlighted by the team’s first road ACC sweep since 2016 over perennial powerhouse North Carolina, was the strong play on the mound from the Notre Dame pitching staff. Juniors Tommy Vail and Tommy Sheehan both posted 3-0 records to start the season, posting impressive 2.08 and 2.70 ERAs, respectively. Freshman Jack Brannigan, sophomore Aiden Tyrell and junior captain Joe Boyle also performed well in their work out of the bullpen.
Unfortunately, Jarrett and the Irish suffered the same fate as everyone else in the world of sports when COVID-19 struck, leaving loyal Notre Dame fans wondering what could’ve been for a season that just felt different to anyone who was watching it unfold. A shortened season is far less telling than a full one, especially with minimal ACC competition, but one can’t help but get excited thinking about the future of ND baseball and the beginning of the Link Jarrett era in South Bend.