Alizé Mack shows star power in Notre Dame football charity softball game

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

There were no actual home runs hit during the impromptu home run derby Sunday at Four Winds Field.

Notre Dame’s new defensive coordinator, Mike Elko, during his three innings on the mound, struggled a bit with, ironically, his own defense. And the best offensive poke of the day came from a guy with absolutely zero organized baseball or softball experience.

“I do have two uncles who played Major League Baseball,” offered Irish tight end Alizé Mack, whose inside-the-park home run to the left-center-field wall would likely have made uncles Shane Mack and Quinn Mack proud.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this.”

The Irish football team and local law enforcement will likely encore the Football & The Force charity softball event next year to build on Sunday’s inaugural effort.

Proceeds from the event, three three-inning games against different branches of law enforcement, will benefit Indiana C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors). C.O.P.S. provides resources to assist in the rebuilding of the lives of surviving families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

“The whole thing started with (athletic director) Jack Swarbrick wanting to do something to show appreciation for the local law enforcement with all they do for us — traveling and protecting us and the community,” said Ron Powlus, ND’s director of player development.

“What better venue to take it off of our campus, and bring it to downtown South Bend. The Cubs and Four Winds Field couldn’t have been better hosts.

“I think everybody had fun. I think it went smooth enough. There’s some things to iron out, but we want to keep growing interest.”

The Notre Dame football team was divided into three softball teams for the event, with the two that weren’t playing at the time interacting with fans in the Fun Zone or signing autographs. The games were played in 90-degree weather and high humidity.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly threw out the ceremonial pitch in one of the games, then spent the rest of his time playfully heckling his own team.

The Notre Dame football team won the first game, 9-1, over the Notre Dame Security Police, behind the outstanding pitching of offensive coordinator Chip Long. He also had two of the better defensive players playing behind him, third baseman/linebacker Greer Martini and shortstop/quarterback Brandon Wimbush.

Offensively, Long had a 6-foot-8, 312-pound leadoff hitter in offensive tackle/first baseman Mike McGlinchey to set the table.

McGlinchey, like Mack, also had an inside-the-park homer. Wide receivers Chris Finke and Javon McKinley did as well during the course of the afternoon.

The Irish lost to the South Bend Police Department, 9-5, in the second game, a matchup in which Elko pitched. In the third game, they couldn’t hold the lead.

A walk-off, three-run, inside-the-park home run capped the 7-5 comeback by a conglomeration of the Indiana State Police, and officers from the Mishawaka and St. Joseph County departments. The Irish made an infield error on a routine grounder just ahead of the home run that would have ended the game if properly executed.

Defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Mike Elston was the tough-luck loser on the mound in game three.

Notre Dame had runs taken off the board, one when one runner missed home and another when one skipped touching third base on his way home. The Irish were also caught having too many players on the field on defense.

“Coach Elston wasn’t helped much,” said Martini, who played third, shortstop and pitched through his sophomore season at Woodberry Forest (Va.) School. “I thought coach Long pitched well, and I think coach Elko, um … pitched well.”

He laughed after the pause.

“Coach Elko is the defensive coordinator, my defensive coordinator,” Martini said. “I don’t want to say too much about that one.”

Mack, who doesn’t have his playing time determined by Elko, wasn’t shy about chirping in.

“He needs to set up some targets in his backyard,” Mack said of Elko’s two errors, then laughed. “No, no, he did all right. This was about having fun and, hopefully, raising a lot of money for a great cause.”

The Irish veterans have been back on campus for a week now, participating in summer football workouts on the field and the school’s 4-for-40 community service curriculum off it. The majority of the freshman class, those who weren’t early enrollees, join the others when regular classes begin next Monday.

“Our OTAs have been going well,” said Mack, back in good standing after spending the 2016 season in academic exile. “It helped I was able to practice last year. Conditioning-wise, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been.

“My weight, my body fat, my speed, my strength is better than it’s ever been. I can’t wait ‘til I get to play in a real game again.”

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush dives safely back to first base as Notre Dame Security Police first baseman Jim Buckman applies the tag during the Football & The Force charity softball game, Sunday at Four Winds Field. (Tribune Photo/MIKE HARTMAN)