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Baseball: ND hoping to keep up win streak

Chris Masoud | Monday, April 19, 2010

Although Notre Dame is still several wins away from reaching the .500 mark, a weekend sweep of Seton Hall has given the Irish (15-19, 5-7 Big East) a renewed confidence as they head to Michigan Tuesday for a nonconference matchup.
Propelled by the team’s recent success, Irish coach Dave Schrage said he believes his squad has weathered the storm to reach a turning point in the season.
“Well, we’ve won four games in a row,” Schrage said. “We have to look ahead though. Michigan is a top of the Big 10 team, and we just want to keep playing good baseball right now. Right now we’re trying to build off the momentum that we achieved over the weekend.”
Michigan (22-12, 6-3 Big 10) is currently tied with Ohio State for first place in the conference and has won six of its last seven games. The Wolverines are led at the plate by sophomore catcher Coley Crank, who paces the squad with six home runs and 38 RBIs.
But Michigan has also been getting the job done on the defensive side, and is second in the conference with a .968 team fielding percentage.
Notre Dame will have to rely on its timely hitting, a factor that was missing for the better part of the season, which has returned at a critical point in the schedule.
“They’ve been doing a lot of extra hitting, which always pays off,” Schrage said. “I think we’ve settled into a lineup, so guys are more relaxed. If anything, as the season goes on the hitters catch up to the pitchers. I think we’re definitely in that groove right now.”
The Irish will be without their top three starters: senior Eric Maust, junior Brian Dupra and sophomore Steve Sabatino, who all pitched in the weekend series against Seton Hall. Schrage said that the starting pitcher will be a game-time decision between sophomore LHP Ryan Richter and freshman RHP Adam Norton.
Notre Dame’s lack of depth in the rotation comes on the heels of an injury to junior ace Cole Johnson, who went down last month with soreness in his throwing shoulder.
“We hoped that Cole would throw last Tuesday, but he was playing catch and felt pain,” Schrage said. “He got relooked at again on Thursday and was starting to feel better. He’s going to try and throw a little bit in the bullpen, and we’ll see where his status is. Right now he hasn’t been able to overcome his soreness.”
Despite a disappointing start to their final season, the seniors have spurred Notre Dame’s recent success and have displayed a sense of urgency in the second half. Schrage said he expects them to rise to the occasion heading into a rivalry game against the Wolverines.
“A lot of them are playing, and they want to make something of the season,” Schrage said. “They have a lot invested in this program, and they want to make their last year special. I’m expecting them to step up again.”
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. in Ann Arbor. The two teams will meet again Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium with a 6:05 start.