WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It had been 353 days since the Notre Dame baseball team had played in a game as the Irish returned to the field to kick off the 2021 season Saturday afternoon. After the series opener was postponed due to weather, the Irish split the doubleheader with the Demon Deacons at David F. Couch Ballpark. In game 1, Wake came from behind to top the Irish 10-8. The Irish bounced back in the second game with a 5-4 victory to split the day.
It was a big day at the plate for senior Niko Kavadas, as he got his season off to a roaring start. He homered in his first two at-bats in game one and finished the game with two home runs and five RBI, both tying his career highs.
In the second game graduate transfer Alex Brait made a name for himself in his first Irish at-bat, hitting a grand slam to give the Irish an early lead. After Wake tied the game in the fourth, Liam Simon and Aidan Tyrell combined for 5.1 innings of scoreless relief to keep the Irish in the game. Notre Dame regained the lead in the seventh and did not relinquish it to earn their first win of the season.
Another quick start for the Irish in game two as they scored in the opening inning. The bases were loaded for Brait as he stepped into the box for his first at-bat in an Irish uniform. Brait launched a ball to the opposite field and it cleared the fence for a grand slam and gave the Irish an early 4-0 lead.
Wake Forest started to chip away at the lead, adding runs in the second and third inning but Bertrand limited the damage and kept the Irish in front 4-2. In the fourth inning, Wake scored two more and tied the game at 4-4.
The scored stayed tied until the top of the seventh when the Irish jumped back in front. David LaManna opened the inning with a walk and ended up at third with just one out in the inning. LaManna scored the go ahead run on a wild pitch and the Irish regained the lead at 5-4.
Simon entered the game in the bottom of the fourth and kept the Deacs off the scoreboard over 3.1 innings while allowing just two hits. Tyrell came on in the eighth to shut the door and he allowed just one baserunner in the final two innings to earn his second career save.
The Irish picked up just as they left off in 2020, taking an early lead in the first inning thanks to Kavadas. After fouling off a few pitches, Kavadas crushed a fastball to dead center for a two-run blast that scored Jared Miller and gave the Irish a 2-0 lead.
Wake got a run back in the bottom of the second after loading the bases on Tommy Sheehan. He got Pilat to strikeout for the second out of the inning which brought up the top of the lineup. Costello ripped a liner into the left side that Zack Prajzner was able to stop but couldn’t get the runner at second and Muntz scored from third. Sheehan was able to get Turconi to fly out to left and end the threat with the Irish up 2-1.
The top of the Irish lineup got back to the plate in the third and they did not disappoint. With runners on first and second, Kavadas launched another rocket over the center field wall for his second home run of the game. It is his second career multi-home run game and gave the Irish a 5-1 advantage.
Sheehan kept Wake off the scoreboard the rest of his outing, lasting four innings while tallying seven strikeouts on the afternoon. Will Mercer came on in the fifth and continued to keep the Demon Deacons at bay.
Wake added a run in the bottom of the sixth off a solo home run but the Irish answered right back in the seventh. With the bases loaded and two outs, LaManna singled through the right side to score Jack Brannigan and Spencer Myers.
The Demon Deacons kept chipping away in the bottom half of the seventh. They scored three on the back of two home runs in the inning. After seven full innings, Notre Dame held a 7-5 lead.
The Irish responded with a run in the next half inning. After reaching on an error to start the inning, Prajzner came home to score on Myers’ sacrifice fly to give the Irish an 8-5 advantage.
In the eighth, the Deacons jumped over the Irish bullpen and took their first lead of the game in the eighth. Wake scored five runs in the inning to take a 10-8 lead. The Irish were unable to make any noise in the ninth and dropped the first game of the doubleheader.
The Irish and Demon Deacons will conclude the weekend series with the rubber match Sunday afternoon from David F. Couch Ballpark. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.