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Baseball: Ready for liftoff

Lorenzo Reyes | Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Notre Dame’s early season struggles seem like ages ago.

For the Irish (21-9-1, 10-2), poised pitching and streaking bats have made the difference. Headed into today’s game against Toledo (9-19, 3-6), the Irish are making an impressive run near the midpoint of the season, riding an eight-game winning streak to the top of the Big East standings.

The Rockets, on the other hand, are hanging around the cellar in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. at Franck Eck Stadium.

The Irish winning streak has been led by sophomore outfielder A.J. Pollock and junior pitcher David Phelps. Both players swept the Big East honors this past week earning player of the week and pitcher of the week, respectively.

For Pollock, it marked the second week in a row that he had taken the award for his recent play. In the five games this past week the outfielder hit an impressive .579 in addition to a pair of doubles and triples, a homerun, five RBI and eight runs scored.

Pollock leads the Irish in batting average, hits, RBI, stolen bases, triples and multi-hit games thus far in the season.

Fortunately for Notre Dame, the sophomore shook off his early season slump, in which he hit .176. Since then, he has erupted for 47-of-105, helping spark the offensive production that has helped the Irish win 14 of their last 16.

As well as his success from the plate, Pollock has flashed his talents with his glove. During the five-game span, the sophomore recorded 10 outs without committing an error.

Phelps picked up his award thanks to his solid effort against the Wildcats Friday. In the 2-1 victory, the junior was one out away from his sixth complete game of his career tallying eight strikeouts to go with only two walks and no earned runs.

After giving up an unearned run in the second inning, Phelps didn’t lose focus, inducing 12 groundball outs and five hits en route to his fourth win of the season.

In addition to Pollock’s offensive prowess, senior outfielder Ross Brezovsky has excelled with the bat, going .373 with 24 RBI and three homeruns.

The power threat in the Irish lineup is junior Evan Sharpley who leads the squad with seven homeruns to go with his .346 average and 23 RBI. However, the power comes with a price – Sharpley leads all Notre Dame batters with 27 strikeouts, 12 more than the next closest player.

Leading the Rockets at the plate are junior third baseman Jake Oester and freshman right fielder Dan Sherwood.

Oester leads is tied for the team high with five homeruns and leads the squad in batting average with a mark of .371 in addition to his 21 RBI, good for second place.

Sherwood is right behind his teammate, hitting .370 with three homeruns and 11 RBI.

Toledo’s pitching has been its weak point so far this season, allowing an average of 11.1 hits per contest to go with its 8.5 runs per game. In addition, Rockets opponents are batting a combined .314, making it tough for the offense to keep the squad in games.

Following the contest, Notre Dame will travel to U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, to face Northern Illinois in a non-conference game Wednesday.