Chris Allen | Tuesday, May 3, 2011
In the midst of a stretch of crucial Big East weekend matchups, Notre Dame will travel out of conference tonight to take on long-time rival Michigan in a home-and-home series. The teams will play in Ann Arbor, Mich., today before traveling to South Bend for Wednesday’s game.
The series between the Irish (16-21-1, 7-10 Big East) and Wolverines (13-28, 6-9 Big Ten) dates back nearly 100 years and spans 125 games. Since the first meeting between the teams in 1892, Michigan has controlled the series, posting an 81-44 record. The Wolverines have won six of the last seven meetings, including a sweep of the Irish in a similar home-and-home series last season. This season, however, the Wolverines have fallen well short of program standards, struggling to a .246 team average at the plate. Irish coach Mik Aoki said Michigan’s struggles at the plate have mirrored those of his own team.
“I think they are somewhat very similar to the type of squad that we are,” Aoki said “They have pitched fairly well and struggled with the bat like we have. It’s just not your typical Michigan type of year. We lost a close one to them last year and they beat us up pretty good here in our yard.”
The Irish offense will face a Michigan pitching staff that has been inconsistent, garnering a 5.16 staff ERA on the season compared to the 2.92 ERA for the experienced Irish staff. Wolverine sophomore starting pitcher Bobby Brosnahan has particularly struggled, posting a 1-8 record with a 7.71 ERA in 11 starts.
The offensive attack for Notre Dame came to life late in its series with Seton Hall this past weekend. After scoring three runs in the first 27 innings of the match-up with the Pirates (20-21, 7-11), the Irish erupted for five runs in the final three innings of the series on two home-runs, stealing the rubber game of the series in the process. Aoki said the offense will try to turn the corner permanently in the mid-week series with Michigan, though he said the pitching and defense will continue to be crucial.
“I think it’s the same recipe all the time [in preparing for opponents]. We need to make sure we pitch and defend well and get some timely hitting,” Aoki said. “[Last game] we were able to change our mentality as the game went on, which is something we have not been able to do all year long, so it was definitely encouraging.”
The series begins tonight at 6:35 p.m. in Ann Arbor, Mich., and concludes Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium with a scheduled 5:35 p.m. first pitch.