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Baseball: Notre Dame looks to shake off southern rust

Deirdre Krasula | Thursday, February 22, 2007

Unfortunately there is no spring training in college baseball because Notre Dame’s annual early season trip south has started sour.The Irish first tested the southern weather last weekend when they traveled to San Antonio, Texas to take on Prairie View A&M and Texas State. Notre Dame started strong defeating Prairie View A&M 15-8 on Saturday but the Irish fell to Texas State 2-1 and 6-0 Sunday to drop to 1-2 on the year.Notre Dame will head south to Myrtle Beach, S.C. this weekend to take on UNC-Wilmington, TCU and Coastal Carolina. Despite dropping two of their first three games to warm weather teams, the Irish do not think that they are facing a disadvantage.”I don’t necessarily look at it as a struggle or a disadvantage,” Notre Dame coach Dave Schrage said of the weather conditions. “I think the more days you could be outside is beneficial to your team, but we have a great indoor facility situation.”The team has been practicing at Loftus to prepare for the games that lay ahead. Schrage said that he thinks working out indoors poses few problems for the team. He said that the team is just as strong defensively as if it were practicing outside – the only challenge the team faces is at the plate, and even that seems minimal.”The biggest disadvantage really comes when you’re talking about your hitting, but last week we didn’t look like a team that had not been outside,” he said.Ironically, practicing in Loftus also presents the Irish with the advantage of being accustomed to a field similar to the ones they will face in Myrtle Beach.”Most of the fields down south are short grass and the balls very similar to what we face here [inside],” Schrage said. “That’s what we have to deal with and you have to deal with it in a positive way, and you have to deal with it positively with your team.” It seems the main focus for Notre Dame is maintaining a positive attitude, considering the Irish had to replace a head coach and their entire three-man weekend rotation this offseason. But to Notre Dame those are all just details – the main focus is on the start of conference play and not what might be holding the team back.”If the players go into a game thinking that … we are at a disadvantage, its not the right approach, so we don’t look at it that way,” Schrage said. “We’re looking at each weekend that we get to get outside to evaluate if we get better from the weekend before. Our guys are trying to get better and we’re getting focused to open the conference season.”Schrage noted that weather isn’t the only factor ailing the Irish. The team has played far less games than many of its coming opponents – Notre Dame’s next opponent, UNC-Wilmington (3-5), has already played eight games while the Irish have only played three.Despite the forces working against them, Schrage is confident that the team will perform well down South before it enters its Big East season.”I want to make sure we’re playing our better baseball come conference time and at the end of our season than we are right out of the shoot,” he said. “Right now we are more focused on how we are playing each game, all the stuff that we are working on inside, we can adapt to outside.”