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Baseball: Irish begin tough stretch at Cards

Alex Barker | Friday, April 24, 2009

Notre Dame begins the second half of its Big East schedule today as it travels to Louisville to face the Cardinals in a three-game set.

The Irish (23-15, 8-7 Big East) are entering a significant stretch of the schedule where all four conference opponents they will face are currently ahead of them in the standings. After the Cardinals (28-11, 11-4), they host two home series against Connecticut and South Florida before ending the season at St. John’s.

Irish coach Dave Schrage said he feels that each of the upcoming conference series will pose tough tests for his team.

“Our last four [series] are all important,” he said. “We have 12 tough games ahead of us as every team we play is ahead of us in the standings. We are really going to have to play well to do well.”

In order to take down the Cardinals, Notre Dame will need to get much more consistent hitting out of its lineup in combination with continued strong performances off the mound.

In a series split against Michigan, the Irish struggled to produce runs, stranding a total of 12 runners, eight in scoring position, through four innings of game two Wednesday. In the fifth inning, the Irish finally broke through after senior Jeremy Barnes’ single with the bases loaded drove in two runs. Before that, the Irish were two for their last 13 at-bats with the bases loaded.

Pitching has not been an issue as of late. Senior Sam Elam went six innings in game one against the Wolverines, allowing just two earned runs and recording nine strikeouts, but couldn’t get enough offense behind him to avoid the loss. In game two, junior Ryan Richter was able to stymie the Michigan offense again, allowing just three earned runs in five innings to get the win.

The Irish are going to need to pull it all together if they are to have any chance of taking down Louisville in hostile territory.

The Cardinals are nearly unbeatable at home, having lost there just four times all season, each of which came by one run. They have also won eight of their last nine games against Big East opponents.

Schrage knows that with such a difficult task at hand, his team is going to need to dig deep this weekend to come out with the victory.

“[Louisville] hits up and down the lineup,” he said. “They have really good pitching and plenty of depth. We’re going to have to be at the top of our game to beat them.”

Game one of this weekend’s Big East matchup is slated to begin today at 6:30 p.m.