Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 93 ND SPORTS second baseman Jared Miller, senior shortstop Zack Prajzner and junior third baseman Jack Brannigan — also return. On the mound, questions persist whether the Irish hurlers can match or improve on last season after finishing third in the ACC with a 3.92 ERA and allowing the fewest runs in the league. Notre Dame returns three left-hand- ers who joined the departed Kohlhepp as the four Irish workhorses in 2021. Those include preseason All-American John Michael Bertrand, who led the Irish last season with 92 2 ⁄3 innings pitched, along with seniors Aidan Tyrell and Will Mer- cer. Jarrett also mentioned senior Alex Rao as a valuable bullpen option. Based on departures, returners and new arrivals, Jarrett believes his team is equipped to make another run at its first College World Series appearance in 21 years. However, Jarrett also realizes that no two seasons or teams are created equally, and in baseball more than any sport, little things mean a lot. "Regardless of the talent that you have," he said, "consistent execution, performance and focus goes a long way, and is the difference in putting yourself in the national conversation." The Irish open their season at Stet- son's Hatter Classic Feb. 18 in DeLand, Fla. SOFTBALL ALSO HAS LOFTY GOALS Veteran Notre Dame head softball coach Deanna Gumpf is reluctant to rate by personal preference the 20 Irish teams she has coached from 2002-21. But while reflecting on the myriad of on- and off-field challenges her group overcame last season, Gumpf admitted that her 2021 team and this 2022 carryover group hold a special place in her heart. Through seven game cancellations, a COVID outbreak and uncountable fits and starts because of the pandemic, Gumpf's Irish last season still finished 33-15 overall and 20-10 in the ACC, and were only one win away from beating top-ranked and host-school Kentucky in a postseason regional to secure a place in the 16-team NCAA Super Regional round. "Last season, the way that it ended, was something that stuck with this en- tire team," Gumpf said. "It was heart- wrenching because we were so close. But the way this team has responded since then makes me very, very excited." And understandably so because Gumpf returns what she considers the most talented and cohesive group she's ever fielded at Notre Dame. Gumpf explained that her depth of talent is so great she has "two legitimate starters at every position, which we've never had before." And that talent list starts with gradu- ate outfielder Abby Sweet and graduate pitcher Alexis Holloway, both 2021 team captains. Sweet led the ACC with a .445 battling average in 2021 and became an All-American. Holloway finished 14-7, struck out 111 batters and pitched 11 complete games. When asked how good this team can be, Gumpf said one of the best in the country. And what makes this team special? "It's who they are as people," Gumpf said. "They are the coolest and best team to be around because they're a bunch of girls who really care about this team, they care about our program and they care about each other, and that doesn't happen all the time." The Irish open the season against Bucknell and Boston University Feb. 11 in Charlotte, N.C. ✦ Irish Roundup As of Feb. 7 FENCING (MEN 32-0, WOMEN 37-2) The Irish men went 20-0 while competing at the St. John's invitational Jan. 22, at the Philadelphia Invitational Jan. 23 and in the DeCicco Duals in South Bend Jan. 29-30, while the women compiled a 21-2 mark. HOCKEY (20-8-0 OVERALL, 12-6-0 BIG TEN) No. 11 Notre Dame has won seven of tits last nine contests, including 7-2 and 3-0 home victories over Penn State Feb. 4-5 … The Irish stood fourth in the Big Ten standings with matchups at Wisconsin Feb. 10-11, at Michigan State Feb. 18-19 and home vs. Michigan Feb. 25-26 remaining on their schedule. SWIMMING & DIVING The Irish men and the No. 20-ranked women competed in the Tim Welsh Classic Jan. 21-22 in South Bend, with the women placing first and the men second … Both Notre Dame squads also picked up wins — 204-86 for the women and 173-96 for the men — in a home dual meet against UIC Jan. 29 … Next up for both teams are ACC Championships Feb. 15-19 in Atlanta. MEN'S TENNIS (4-1, 0-1 ACC) Notre Dame won four of its first five dual matches, with the lone defeat coming at ACC foe and No. 10-ranked Wake Forest Jan. 29. WOMEN'S TENNIS (5-2, 0-0 ACC) The Irish notched wins in five of their first seven dual matches, including 6-1 and 5-2 triumphs over Yale and Northern Illinois, respectively, Feb. 6. TRACK & FIELD The Notre Dame men and women both competed in the Simmons-Harvey Invitational Jan. 15, with the women placing second and the men fourth … The two squads also competed in the Notre Dame, PNC Lenny Lyles and Meyo Invitationals in January and early February, but there was no team scoring. — Steve Downey NOTRE DAME NO. 2 IN DIRECTORS' CUP FALL STANDINGS When the final fall standings for the 2021-22 Learfield Directors' Cup were released Jan. 13, Notre Dame found itself in the No. 2 spot. The Fighting Irish's fall sports team compiled 360 points, behind only BYU (368) and just ahead of No. 3 Michigan (354). Notre Dame got 83 points from men's soccer's third-place national finish, 75 from women's cross country's fifth-place showing, 69 each from men's cross country's and football's ninth-place efforts, and 64 from women's soccer's ninth-place finish. Here's a look at the top 10: Rk. School Points 1. BYU 368 2. Notre Dame* 360 3. Michigan 354 4. Wisconsin 339.5 5. Penn State 298 6. North Carolina* 295.5 7. Washington 283 8. Arkansas 277.5 9. Florida State* 259 10. Pittsburgh* 248 * ACC school — Steve Downey

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