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BASEBALL: Huskies to face Irish in big weekend series

Tom Dorwart | Friday, April 15, 2005

It’s not time to panic – just time to win. Through 32 games, the Irish hold a disappointing 17-15 overall record and a subpar 5-4 Big East Conference record. While Notre Dame might not have the all-American pitching and the all-American catcher that last year’s national champions had, the Irish can look on the bright side of things. The Cal State Fullerton Titans were a dismal 16-16 at this point last season. Fullerton went on a tear to finish the season 47-22 and atop the college baseball world at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Turnarounds happen. They can be done. Notre Dame hopes to start its tear Saturday when it faces Big East foe the Connecticut Huskies (21-11, 4-4 Big East) in a pivotal weekend series at home.”We really have to cultivate a sense of urgency about the rest of the season because it’s time to light the fire and kick the tires about this thing,” junior pitcher Tom Thornton said.”We still believe that we have a team that can do great things. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the team that are really coming into their own. Right now I think we’re really kind of starting to hit our stride after last weekend taking two out of three from [Boston College].”The Irish take the diamond Saturday at noon for a doubleheader and Sunday at noon for the final game. Thornton (3-4) will start the second Saturday game, while sophomore Dan Kapala takes the mound for the opener. Sophomore Jeff Manship will try to earn his first win in the Sunday game.Connecticut is coming off a 6-2 victory over Central Connecticut State Thursday. The Huskies snapped a three-game losing streak with the win. The Huskies are led on offense by outfielder Tony Mallozi who is batting .389. Infielder Jeff Hourigan is batting .325. Huskie ace lefty Rich Sirois holds a 5-2 record and a team-leading 43.2 innings pitched. He has also rung up 32 strikeouts. In his last performance, Thornton hurled a complete-game outing against his home state team. “After the game, there were about fifteen of my friends and family there. My dad and my mom, who can’t come to a lot of baseball games, were there,” he said. “It was great to be back home. It was a lot of fun to get some quality wins against a good team like that.” He believes the team is confident and poised to make a move up in the Big East standings this weekend. “I think without a doubt we’re very positive about this. I believe I can go in and get the job done any time against any opponent,” Thornton said. “It’s going to be a big weekend for us just like last weekend – really like every weekend from here on out. We’ve really got to come to grips with that. We need these games.” Taking the series from the Huskies would move the Irish out of the middle of the conference standings and into the upper tier. They sit half a game ahead of Connecticut and half a game behind Villanova, and better yet, only two and a half games back of Big East leader St. John’s. “The focus is totally on Connecticut now. If we get the job done this weekend, we can put ourselves in a pretty decent position,” coach Paul Mainieri said.Thornton put it a little more bluntly. “We’re looking forward to getting down to business on Saturday,” he said.