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Baseball: Slania leads Notre Dame to sweep over Hofstra

Brendan Bell | Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Dan Slania earned three saves over the weekend as Notre Dame swept Hofstra at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C., on its way to the best start to an Irish season since 2004.

The Irish (5-1, 0-0 Big East) played a double-header Saturday against the Pride (1-6), where they won the two games 6-3 and 10-8, respectively. Notre Dame completed the sweep Sunday, holding off a late Hofstra rally to earn a 5-4 victory.

Irish coach Mik Aoki said the team’s fast start is a great springboard for the rest of the season.

“I think this gives us a little bit of confidence going forward,” he said. “It is great to see that the hard work the players have been putting in since August is being tangibly awarded and it is great to have some success early on.”

Notre Dame thrived at the plate, consistently making contact. With the exception of Sunday’s game, the Irish have recorded double-digit hits every game this season.

“I think we’ve been having good at bats where pitchers have to get us out rather than us getting ourselves out,” Aoki said. “People are going out with a plan and executing. Rather than being concerned about batting averages or slugging percentages, instead our batters are passing the eye test.”

Sophomore first baseman Trey Mancini and last week’s Big East Player of the Week junior catcher Joe Hudson went a combined 8-for-15 in the Saturday double-header. Hudson, who went 3-for-3 in the opening 6-3 win, is hitting .611 on the season. In the final game of the weekend, Mancini continued making solid contact by going 3-for-3 and sparked a three-run fifth inning against Hofstra.

During all three games this weekend, Hofstra came within a few runs of Notre Dame and threatened to take the lead, but Slania managed to close out the Pride in the ninth inning.

“Danny has been doing outstanding in games that we needed to put away,” Aoki said. “We need to get our bullpen straightened out, though, and find some people outside of Danny in there to step up.”

While Aoki said certain aspects of the bullpen need improvement, the Irish benefitted from starting pitching performances lasting deep into the games. Junior right-handed pitcher Adam Norton tossed seven innings on Saturday, while senior right-handed pitcher Will Hudgins pitched 7.2 innings of one-run ball for the Irish on Sunday in his second career start.

Aoki said the defense looked strong over the weekend as well.

“Defensively, we played really well and only had two errors all weekend,” he said. “There may have been a few plays that we should have made, but as a whole I was very happy with the defense.”

The Irish hope to continue their momentum and develop their play over the next few weeks.

“We just need to continue to get better and have a long way to go, but it has been great to start the season with this success,” Aoki said.

The Irish will be back in action next weekend when they travel to San Marcos, Texas, to face Texas State in a three-game series starting Friday.

 

Contact Brendan Bell at

bbell2@nd.edu