Notre Dame's Link Jarrett visiting Florida State for first time as opposing head coach

Carter Karels
Tallahassee Democrat

Link Jarrett recounted some of the tomfoolery that happened inside the apartment he shared with former Florida State baseball teammate and current head coach Mike Martin Jr. for two years. 

The wiffleball games in the backyard. Throwing golf balls at each other’s shins in the living room. Hosting afterparties after football games. All of those memories are still cherished by Jarrett three decades later.

But now in retrospect, Jarrett recognizes something that maybe he didn’t appreciate as much during that time as being impactful for him throughout his baseball coaching endeavors.

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“The level of baseball discussion amidst all of the fun, there were some grooming moments for us and knowing that we were probably going to coach one day,” Jarrett told the Democrat. “There were some high-level baseball discussions that you knew as they were happening, were very unique.”

The past certainly impacted Jarrett’s present, and the two will collide this weekend. The Notre Dame head baseball coach will return for his first FSU baseball game since being an assistant coach for the Seminoles with Martin Jr. in 2003. 

No. 7 FSU (16-8, 6-3 ACC) hosts the No. 16 Irish (13-5, 2-4) at Dick Howser Stadium for a three-game series (7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday). All three games will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.

Jarrett’s ties to Tallahassee also extend beyond the Seminoles. The parents of the former baseball star for local Florida High and his wife Jennifer’s parents still live in the area. He expects a lot of family and friends to be in attendance this weekend.

It won’t be an all-business approach from Jarrett.

“I’m going to visit with them. That’s a must for me,” said Jarrett about his parents. “It’s very difficult to get down there. In the coaching profession, it’s a little tricky sometimes to break free. When we are there and I have a chance, I’m 100 percent going to spend time with my folks.”

As a four-year starting shortstop for FSU, Jarrett left a lasting impact on its baseball program. The Seminoles reached the College World Series in three of Jarrett’s four seasons. He still has the most career assists in NCAA history, tallying 802 across 276 games.

So when Jarrett comes to Dick Howser stadium again, he might recall a few memories that initially shaped him as a baseball coach.

“Florida State gave me a chance,” Jarrett said. “It was the middle of June after my senior year when they invited me on the team. To think about that in the current model when fast-forwarding 30 years, that’s almost impossible to think that could happen. …

“It gave me an opportunity as a player when I needed it. And I’d like to say I made something of that. And then you start to form your coaching philosophy based on what you did as a player. So that’s where it started. And the opportunity they gave me is where it started. And I cherish that. I’m very appreciative.

“I tell coach (Mike) Martin (Sr.) every time I talk to him – and I should talk to him more often, but it’s every few months – I thank him. ‘Hey coach, thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for what you did.’ Because somebody has got to give you a chance, and he did.”

Jarrett building the Irish into a contender

Earlier this month, one of the more impressive streaks in college baseball ended for Notre Dame.

The Irish had not dropped two or more consecutive games in their first 64 under Jarrett. Louisville ended that run by sweeping Notre Dame last weekend. The Irish extended their losing streak to four games after losing to Virginia Tech last Friday but bounced back with an 11-2 victory over Northern Illinois on Tuesday.

Overall, Jarrett has resurrected a Notre Dame program that had made only one NCAA Tournament in the 13 seasons before his arrival in 2020. The Irish are 58-20 under Jarrett, and their .744 winning percentage during that span ranks seventh nationally.

Last season, Notre Dame finished 34-13 with a regular-season ACC Championship and came within one win of making the College World Series. Jarrett claimed Coach of the Year honors from D1Baseball.

“To win the league last year was absolutely remarkable,” Jarrett said. “I will say that I’m taking a group of kids into this weekend that are remarkable. The academic workload that they endure here, how hard they have to work to stay ahead of it academically. If you look at our schedule and where we’ve had to travel, if you added up the mileage that we’ve endured so far, we’ve played three home games. 

“It is exceptional the level of work ethic that these guys have. So I hope that people understand that about our team. These guys, I’m very proud of them, and I’m amazed every day at the dedication they have to being elite student-athletes.”

Quickly turning around the Irish thrust Jarrett into becoming one of the more highly sought-after head coaches in college baseball. He reportedly garnered interest for LSU’s vacancy last offseason but decided to commit to Notre Dame long term.

Last December, Jarrett signed an extension that will keep him in South Bend, Ind. until 2026.

“The kids are amazing,” said Jarrett on his decision to stay. “My wife mentioned to me, ‘I can tell you enjoy these guys. And there’s something about these guys you are coaching, they get what you are doing.’ 

“She recognized that. It was a really interesting perspective. My wife has seen basically everything you can see in this sport. So when she recognized something like that, it caught me a little bit. 

“I value the excellence that’s represented here with the program, the school, the kids, the history, the global network. I’m so thankful every day that I get to put on the Notre Dame shirt. It’s got the ND monogram and the brand. I enjoy that. It represents so many phenomenal things. And watching our guys go at it the way they go at it.”

Pitching duel

The Irish adding graduate transfer John Michael Bertrand from Furman played a major role in their success last season.

And Bertrand (4-0, 2.19 ERA) is still pitching at a high level after recording an 8-2 record with a 3.21 ERA over 92.2 innings across 15 appearances with 14 starts last season. Bertrand and fellow weekend starters Aidan Tyrell (3-0, 4.15 ERA) and Austin Temple (2-0, 2.42 ERA) have a combined 2.76 ERA, which would rank No. 7 nationally.

Overall, Notre Dame comes in at No. 15 in ERA (3.40), No. 2 in fielding percentage (.988 with eight errors), No. 8 in strikeouts per nine innings (11.5) and No. 10 in WHIP (1.17). So FSU starters Parker Messick (4-1, 2.84 ERA), Bryce Hubbart (5-1, 2.17 ERA) and Ross Dunn (1-1, 2.00 ERA) should have quite the pitching duel this weekend. 

They have a combined 2.38 ERA, which would rank No. 3, and have helped the Seminoles tally the most strikeouts in college baseball with 311.

“Their starting pitching doesn’t make you feel good,” Jarrett said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to handle those lefties. They are phenomenal. They have thrown great. They are a little bit different in their own respect but all very, very good and talented. Going into that from a strategic standpoint, you are trying to figure out a way to combat that. Those guys are clearly the strength of that team. And when your starting pitching is a strength, then that’s obviously a great strength to have.”

Jarrett said he admired what Martin Jr. has accomplished and keeps up with him consistently. He wants to keep a close eye on the program Martin Jr. inherited from his father before the 2020 season.

And this weekend, Jarrett will watch his former roommate coach his alma mater from the visiting dugout.

“He put as much time as anybody into that baseball program,” Jarrett said. “And the expectations there are very, very high. There is pressure with that. He handled it beautifully. They have continued to progress and recruit. And he does a great job managing that program.

"They put up a fantastic product on that field. He’s a brilliant baseball person. He coaches the guys hard. And it’s fun to watch. He does a great job with the program.

“We enjoy talking. We talk a lot about our parents, our kids. It’s not always Notre Dame-FSU. I would say that’s a small percentage of what we talk about. But we were roommates, and we grew up playing together.

"Our relationship is far deeper than just, ‘What time is batting practice tomorrow?’”

Florida State vs. Notre Dame

When: Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: Dick Howser Stadium

TV/Radio: ACC Network Extra/100.7 FM for all three games

Reach Carter Karels at ckarels@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels.

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