BASEBALL: Irish drop two games in Aces Diamond Invite
Joe Meixell | Monday, March 21, 2005
The differences between the Irish and their weekend opponents are glaring. Notre Dame has an NCAA Division I record 16 straight 40-win seasons. South Dakota State has won three games in its first year in Division INotre Dame has appeared in the NCAA tournament 19 times – six consecutive. Evansville has appeared in the NCAA tournament twice. But none of those statistics mattered over the weekend in the Aces’ Diamond Classic where the Irish fell to host Evansville on Friday 10-3 and to South Dakota State on Saturday 13-7. Notre Dame (7-9) hoped to build on back-to-back wins after beating Northern Illinois in Thursday’s game. With six players batting over .300, Notre Dame’s offensive production has been solid this season. But the same old problems came back to bite the Irish – pitching and defense. In three games from Thursday through Saturday, the Notre Dame defense committed eight errors and gave up 29 runs. The Irish ran into a hot Evansville squad (19-5) Friday and a desperate South Dakota State bunch (3-13) Saturday. While Evansville has had a strong start to the season, South Dakota State has struggled early due to a testy schedule. Against the Evansville Purple Aces, junior Tom Thornton suffered his third loss for the Irish. Early on, Notre Dame led 3-0 after home runs by Matt Edwards and Greg Lopez. Edwards leads the Irish with five home runs and 21 RBIs, and owns a .369 batting average. The Aces broke the game open in the middle innings with four runs in the sixth inning and five in the seventh. Freshman designated hitter Tony Langford, seeing more time after strong performances last week, was 2-4 in the loss. Langford is batting .500 in 16 at-bats on the year. Saturday the Irish trailed the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 7-2 heading into the bottom half of the fourth inning. Then the offense made its move, as Notre Dame plated four runs. Senior Scott Bickford entered the game for the Irish and shutdown the Jackrabbits in the top of the fifth. His offense backed him up with a run in the bottom of the inning. With the game tied 7-7, Bickford took the mound again in the sixth but yielded the two game-winning runs to South Dakota State. He suffered his first loss of the season. The Jackrabbits added four late runs to cushion the lead. After 16 games on the road to open the season, home could be the remedy for the Irish. The Irish will try to get back on the winning track when they face Cincinnati Tuesday – playing at Frank Eck Stadium for the first time this season.