2022 College Top 25 Preview: No. 4 Notre Dame
Last season: 34-13 (25-10 in ACC); reached super regionals
Final ranking: No. 10
Coach (record at school): Link Jarrett (45-15, two years)
The good news: Notre Dame last season won its first ACC title since joining the conference and advanced to super regionals for the first time since 2002, pushing the eventual national champion to three games in Starkville. That team now returns almost completely intact, giving the Fighting Irish a deep, experienced team. Notre Dame last season employed a unique pitching strategy, often using a piggyback system rather than traditional roles. Seven pitchers combined to throw 89% of the team’s innings, but only lefthander John Michael Bertrand operated as a traditional starter. With five of those seven pitchers back, including Bertrand, the Irish have a strong core on the mound and added an exciting group of freshmen to the pitching mix. Notre Dame last season used a consistent lineup and returns eight of those starters. Not only did that group make for a strong offense, the Irish also had a premium defense and ranked fifth in the nation in fielding (.982).
The bad news: Notre Dame only had two players drafted in 2021 but those two are key losses. Relief ace Tanner Kohlhepp ranked second on the team in innings to Bertrand and was drafted in the fifth round. First baseman Niko Kavadas hit 22 home runs (third most nationally) and was a first-team All-American before he was drafted in the 11th round. Notre Dame has several options to take on Kohlhepp’s innings. Righthander Liam Sullivan has a big arm and perhaps the most upside of any pitcher on the team, though he needs to throw more strikes. Jack Brannigan primarily was used as a position player last year but earned three saves in six appearances and should pitch more in 2022. Replacing Kavadas and his power will be harder. Carter Putz will move from DH to first base but no one player on the Notre Dame roster can replace Kavadas’ power production on his own. The Irish may have to manufacture a few more runs in 2022, but its lineup still looks solid even without Kavadas.
Player to know: Jack Brannigan, 3B/RHP
Brannigan has steadily improved throughout his college career and, now in his third season in South Bend, he’s ready for a star turn in 2022. He hit .295/.385/.491 with six home runs as well as going 1-0 with three saves in six appearances on the mound in 2021. With Notre Dame looking for someone to step up both in the bullpen and the middle of the order, Brannigan is uniquely positioned to break out in 2022.
Alabama, Kentucky Keep NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive With Crucial Wins
At the SEC Tournament on Wednesday, Alabama and Kentucky both won games critical for keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Path to Omaha: Notre Dame last year fell just short of the program’s first trip to the College World Series since 2002. With nearly the full team back in 2022, expectations in South Bend are higher than they have been in two decades. Notre Dame found out the hard way how difficult going on the road for super regionals can be. With a more normal schedule in 2022, the Irish should be able to put together a resume worthy of a top-eight seed. If Notre Dame can do that, combined with all the veterans It has around the diamond, an Omaha trip could well be in the cards.
|LHP||John Michael Bertrand||R-Sr.||8||2||3.21||93||68||0|