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Broncos gallop into Eck

Chris Federico | Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Following a three game sweep at West Virginia to open Big East conference play, the Irish (17-3, 3-0 in the Big East) return home today to take on Western Michigan at Frank Eck Stadium.With the three victories against the Mountaineers, Notre Dame finished the week 4-1 and moved up to No. 5 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. The Irish are also ranked No. 6 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll, No. 9 by the Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches poll and No. 12 by the Baseball America poll.Notre Dame should be wary hosting the Broncos (8-11) today, as the Irish saw first-hand last week how dangerous mid-week games can be when they lost 4-1 to Central Michigan.But the Irish offense started to get back on track over the weekend, as Notre Dame hit .277 as a team in the three victories. Second baseman Steve Sollmann, who entered the weekend struggling at the plate with a .227 average, had a good series offensively by going 5-for-11 with a key two-run home run to put the Irish ahead for good in the third game against the Mountaineers.Shortstop Greg Lopez also continued his hot hitting, batting 6-for-12 in the series with three runs scored in the final game. Lopez now leads the Irish starters in several categories, including batting average (.411), hits (30), doubles (eight), total bases (44) and slugging percentage (.603). He has also hit a pair of home runs on the season.Third baseman Matt Macri is currently the Irish leader in RBIs with 22, and Sollmann leads the Irish in runs scored with 21.The Broncos have stumbled out of the gate this year, going 1-4 to start the season, but come into today’s game against the Irish having beaten Notre Dame in three of their last four meetings. Over the weekend in West Lafayette, Ind., the Broncos split a pair with Purdue and took two games from Cleveland State.Western Michigan boasts just a .259 team batting average and has only four players batting .300 or better on the season, led by first baseman Justin Carter (.315) and infielder Matt Bolton (.312). Carter is also the team leader in RBIs with 18 and home runs with two.The Bronco pitching staff has posted a 5.04 ERA on the season, with opponents batting .289 against them. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. today at Frank Eck Stadium.