There’s no place like home — especially when you’re a sub-.500 team like Notre Dame baseball is — looking to build up some momentum before your conference tournament.
Since returning to South Bend for their final home stand, the Notre Dame baseball has gone 5-2. This includes six games (two series) against ACC opponents. Those opponents do currently have the two worst records in the conference, but a conference win is a conference win, especially in the ACC.
The puzzling (read: impressive) part about this seven-game stretch is that the Irish were outscored by their opponents 40-31. All five of their wins were by a margin of one run, and their two losses were by margins of eight and six runs.
The way I see it, you can derive two different conclusions from this data:
1.) This team got lucky winning a string of close games. A negative run differential is not sustainable over the long run.
2.) This team showed some poise and resilience. They were able to effectively handle the pressure of these tightly contested conference games.
Call me a homer, but I prefer to believe option number two. There’s no greater example of this than their recent game against Virginia Tech back on April 21st.
In that game, Notre Dame gave up a three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning and then trailed by two runs heading into the bottom of the twelfth. Plenty of teams would quit in that scenario. You felt like you did enough to win the game in regulation and now you face a two-run deficit in extra innings.
What did the Irish do? They scored three runs and won in walk-off fashion.
The Notre Dame baseball program is far from a powerhouse, but this team has exhibited some traits that could allow them to make splash, albeit a small one, in the ACC Tournament. There are a ton of variables in baseball, and the best team doesn’t always win. That’s pretty much the best argument I can make to support this team.
The Irish are currently 20-24 with eight games remaining on their schedule. Six of those games are against conference opponents. At the moment, their conference record is 10-14, which puts them in twelfth place in the ACC.
In case you didn’t know (I didn’t before today), there are fourteen teams in the ACC and only the top twelve make it to the conference tournament. It seems a bit odd that only two teams are left out, but I’m not going to be the one to tell the ACC how to run their baseball conference.
Notre Dame will play their next four games at home before taking a short trip to Northwestern for a game and then wrapping up the season with a series at Louisville.
Time will tell, but I think the Irish will earn a spot in the ACC tournament if they can go at least 3-3 in their remaining conference games.