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Baseball: Spartans ruin Irish home debut with sweep

Michael Bryan | Monday, March 22, 2010

 After a month of traveling to early season tournaments, the Irish were eager to play their first home games this weekend. Eck Stadium was not kind to Notre Dame, however, as Michigan State swept the Irish in the three-game series.
The first game of the Saturday doubleheader was all Spartans, as Michigan State starter A.J. Achter tossed a complete game shutout and the Irish were routed 13-0. Achter struck out nine and gave up seven hits in the win, and Notre Dame sophomore Steve Sabatino was touched up for nine runs in five innings.
“We had a good focused approach coming into the weekend and came out with a lot of positive energy despite the weather,” Irish senior pitcher Eric Maust said. “We had a good attitude coming into the weekend but didn’t see the results we wanted.”
Freshman second baseman Frank Desico had two of Notre Dame’s seven hits in the game.
The Irish rebounded in Saturday’s second game to take an early lead, scoring three runs in the opening frame off Spartan starter Kurt Wunderlich. Senior outfielder Ryan Connolly hit a two-run home run over the left field fence, and Notre Dame scored a third run after Wunderlich threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded.
Michigan State got on the board in the second off Irish starter Brian Dupra, and an RBI single by Spartan Eli Bokie in the fifth inning narrowed the score to 3-2.
Another wild pitch with the bases loaded by Wunderlich helped Notre Dame nudge the lead back to two runs, but in the seventh inning the Irish pitching began to struggle.
After Dupra allowed a run and was relieved by senior Steven Mazur, Michigan State broke through with two more runs off walks by Mazur to take a 6-4 lead. The Spartans added an insurance run in the ninth inning and closer Kurtis Frymier picked up the save.
Maust had a strong performance in Sunday’s finale, but the Irish were shut out for the second consecutive day, falling to Michigan State starter Tony Bucciferro 3-0.
Notre Dame managed just a pair of hits off Bucciferro in the complete game shutout, never threatening to score until the ninth inning. The Irish managed to load the bases with a walk, a double and a hit batsman, but Bucciferro struck out junior shortstop Mick Doyle to finish the game.
“Michigan State is a good team, their hitters didn’t chase many pitches and forced us to locate around the zone,” Maust said. “There were no easy outs but nothing was insurmountable.”
Maust allowed just two runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out three and walking one.
“I was decently pleased with my execution but there is still a lot of room for improvement,” Maust said. “A big positive for me is that I get more and more comfortable out there with each outing, and I feel like I’m gaining a lot of strength back that had been idle during football season.”
The Irish fell to 7-11 on the season with the losses. Notre Dame will host two more home games this week against Ball State and Illinois-Chicago Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, before starting Big East play this weekend at South Florida.