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Baseball: Team hopes to recover from week one losses

Lorenzo Reyes | Thursday, February 28, 2008

Notre Dame will spend spring break in the warmth of Florida and Texas – but there will be little time for rest and relaxation.

Notre Dame will play eight games in nine days as it participates in the Papa John’s Challenge and the Whataburger Classic the next two weekends.

The Irish (1-2) return to the state of Florida for the Papa John’s Classic hoping for better results than their last visit there. Notre Dame dropped two of three games in the Clearwater Invitational last weekend, beating Iowa but falling to Liberty and Albany.

The Irish opened the season with a 6-2 loss to tournament host Liberty, managing just six hits against Flames right-hander Clarence Nicely.

Notre Dame recovered the next day against Iowa, coming from behind four times in a 13-12, 10-inning win. Senior shortstop Brett Lilley hit a two-out, two-run single in the 10th for a walk-off win.

The Irish finished the weekend with a 12-4 loss to Albany.

Notre Dame coach Dave Schrage said the team was disappointed with its results, but there were several good signs in the tournament.

“We played very well defensively, and we’re farther along hitting-wise than we were last season at this point,” Schrage said. “But we obviously want to win every weekend.”

Despite playing their first games outdoors on grass in several months, the Irish made only two errors in three games.

The Irish begin play in West Palm Beach on Saturday against Mount St. Mary’s, and then play a doubleheader Sunday against St. Bonaventure and Boston College. After a day off Monday, the team concludes the tournament Tuesday and Wednesday with games against Maine and Lehigh.

“This weekend is an excellent opportunity for the team to string together a winning streak and build momentum,” sophomore pitcher Eric Maust said. “We have so much talent this year – it’s ridiculous.”

After a day off for travel, the Irish will resume play March 7 in Corpus Christi, Texas., in the Whataburger Classic. Notre Dame opens against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and then will play South Alabama and Arizona.

Schrage also saw the tournaments as opportunities for the team to gain some confidence and recognition early in the season.

“I’d like to start a winning streak and get our guys some momentum,” Schrage said. “We want to let people know in the Big East that we have a good squad and will have a good season.”