Chippewas pummeled by Fighting Irish in NCAA Tournament opener
After suffering an 8-4 loss to Notre Dame on April 13, Central Michigan was poised for the rematch to lean in its favor to open the 2021 NCAA National Tournament.
The Chippewas (40-17) dropped their second meeting against the Fighting Irish (31-11) 10-0 Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium and are now one loss away from their 2021 season coming to an end.
Notre Dame pounced after its lineup saw CMU freshman pitcher Andrew Taylor for the first time, tacking three runs in the fourth, one in the fifth, and six in the sixth. The Chippewas were shutout for the first time since suffering an 8-0 loss to Jacksonville State on Feb. 22, 2020.
"When you lose like this in (the regular season) you're probably going to have a little bit of a lousy period. I don't think there's any time for that or any purpose for it," said head coach Jordan Bischel. "I told the team 'hey, we got beat today. They pitched better, they hit better, they did everything better.' We have just a handful of hours o shake it off and get ready to play a really good team tomorrow."
After a somewhat rocky start to the first Inning, Taylor struck out the side in the second to earn the program single-season strikeout record. However, the reigning Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year would endure turbulence
Notre Dame second baseman Jared Miller drilled a 1-0 pitch off the right field wall for an inning-opening triple in the fourth. He later scored off a Carter Putz groundout to give the home team a 1-0. Niko Kavadas mashed an 0-2 pitch well past the fence in center field for a 3-0 Fighting Irish advantage.
Zach Gilles reached first base safely after a throwing error by Fighting Irish shortstop Zack Prajzner. Notre Dame led the nation with a .985 fielding percentage entering Friday’s game. The Chippewas were unable to capitalize on the Notre Dame miscue after a flyout to right field from senior Griffin Lockwood-Powell and sophomore Garrett Navarra grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The snowball continued to plummet downhill.
The Fighting Irish led off the sixth with a triple from Jack Brannigan to place a runner in scoring position for Kavadas. The Notre Dame first baseman obliterated a pitch that once again found the center field mesh, putting the Chippewas in a six-run deficit.
After allowing Brooks Coetzee to reach first, Taylor was replaced on the mound by Logan Buczkowski. The Mount Pleasant native allowed a two-run home run to right field off the first pitch he threw for an 8-0 Notre Dame lead.
The snowball kept rolling.
A single from Spencer Myers, who stole second, set the stage for Ryan Cole. The left fielder cranked a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence for the home team’s third two-run blast of the inning to take a 10-0 lead and end Buczkowski’s day on the mound. Ryan Palmblad earned the final out of the inning to end a monstrous sixth innings, resulting in six runs off six hits for the home team.
Taylor allowed seven earned runs off 10 hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He recorded four of his punch outs in the first two innings. Buczkowski allowed three earned runs off three hits against five batters in 2/3 innings of relief.
Junior Mario Camilletti earned two of CMU’s five base hits. Shortstop Justin Simpson earned the Chippewas only walk. The Chippewas entered Friday’s game leading the nation with 332 walks drawn.
Notre Dame pitcher John Michael Bertrand threw a complete game shutout, allowing only five hits and one walk with six strikeouts.
The Chippewas will play the loser of Friday night’s game between Michigan and Connecticut at noon on Saturday.