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Baseball: Team heads to the desert for three games down south

Matt Gamber | Friday, February 27, 2009

Notre Dame will again escape the dreary conditions of the Midwest this weekend as the Irish head west to Arizona for the inaugural Phoenix College Classic.

Notre Dame (2-1) will play three games – against Gonzaga Friday, Dayton Saturday and Creighton Sunday – in the tournament, which Dayton is hosting. Friday and Saturday’s games will be at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., and Sunday’s contest will be played at Marich Field in Phoenix.

Sophomore right-hander Cole Johnson (1-0, 3.00) will take the ball tonight against the Bulldogs’ (3-1) right-hander Matt Fields (0-0, 0.00), who threw seven shutout innings in his first start of the year.

Schrage said Johnson is still recovering from a shoulder injury but should be fine after allowing one run in three innings in his first outing.

“We’ve been bringing him back slowly, but he’ll get the star Friday night on a pitch count,” Schrage said. “It’s important we get him out there.”

Brian Dupra (0-1, 2.84), another sophomore righty, will get the nod Saturday against the Flyers (1-2). Dupra surrendered two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in Notre Dame’s opener against Ohio State on Feb. 20 and was charged with the loss.

Dayton will send left-hander Quinn Haselhorst (0-1, 12.46) to the mound.

“They have a little bit of power, and they’ll be scrappy,” Schrage said.

Notre Dame will close its weekend Sunday against Creighton (0-4), who lost four games at Sam Houston State last weekend by a combined six runs. Junior right-hander Eric Maust (0-0, 5.40) will get the start after he allowed three runs in five innings in his first start.

“[Creighton is] real scrappy, and you can’t let Darin [Ruf] beat you,” Schrage said of the Jayhawks’ slugging first baseman. “You’ve got to be sure you get the guys out around them. They try to play a real fast game, and Gonzaga is the opposite – they’ll take a lot of pitches and try to play a longer game.”

After being shut out in their season opener by Ohio State last Friday, the Irish topped Illinois and Purdue in successive days to complete their opening weekend in Florida.

This weekend marks the second of four tournaments Notre Dame will play to open its season. The Irish will play nine games March 6-15 in either Houston or San Antonio as part of the Rice Classic and the Irish Baseball Classic.

“Especially the first three weeks when you’re getting down and playing in warm weather, you want to get better each weekend and minimize your mistakes,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. “Our first nine games are all against great competition, so we’ll find out a lot about our team and what we need to work on. At the same time, we’re trying to look at lineup combinations, guys’ roles out of the bullpen, things like that.”

One who began to solidify his spot in the Irish pen last weekend was Steven Mazur, Schrage said.

The junior right-hander threw three innings of no-hit ball over two appearances last weekend, striking out three and walking one. He appears to be the frontrunner for the closer’s role, which was left empty when would-be senior Kyle Weiland chose to sign with the Boston Red Sox.

“Steven Mazur did a nice job closing out two out of three games there,” Schrage said. “That’s an area, losing Kyle Weiland, we weren’t quite sure who’d be in that role. We’re going to give Steven [an opportunity].”

Sophomore left fielder Golden Tate started and led off all three contests for the Irish and had at least two hits in each game. His seven hits, four runs and two doubles are all team-highs for Notre Dame.

“You’ve got to be real happy with how Golden Tate played,” Schrage said. “He got an opportunity to play out in left field, and he made some nice defensive catches out there. That was a nice, not surprise, but a nice start for him.”