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Baseball: Irish prepare for tough week in Baton Rouge

Jack Hefferon and Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

For most Notre Dame students, spring break is a time to head for warmer weather to rest and recharge. The Irish will indeed be heading south for break, but with nine tough games scheduled in as many days, it might not be a vacation.

Notre Dame (5-4) will hope the change of scenery will bring a change in its play as well, as the team was swept and held scoreless in three games at Texas State last weekend. In addition to their struggle to produce runs, the Irish have had trouble settling in in the field as well, registering 17 errors in their first nine games.

But while the team’s fielding numbers might be unsettling, Irish coach Mik Aoki said he thinks the defense will improve with time.

“I think a lot of it is just getting repetitions,” Aoki said. “I think the problem is that our errors have come in bunches, and so that first weekend we had nine errors in that one game against Purdue…so they seem to come in bunches and hopefully we can kind of iron that out, but I think the way to fix it is to get out there and get better and develop.”

Notre Dame will kick off its marathon break Saturday, with two games against rival Michigan at the LSU Baseball Tournament in Baton Rouge, La. The Wolverines (6-6) are another team trying to rebound after losing four of their last five, but Aoki and the Irish expect a stiff challenge nonetheless.

“I think they’re similar to us in that they’re trying to get their program headed back in the right direction,” Aoki said. “I think it’ll be a nice little series, but we’ll have to play well and I think that it’ll be a measuring stick to see how far we’ve been able to come and hopefully come out with a couple of wins.”

After playing their second game against Michigan on Sunday, the Irish will get right back on the field for an evening showdown with the tournament hosts, No. 13 LSU. The Tigers (11-2) are a perennial powerhouse in college baseball, and this year is no different. In addition to LSU’s notorious home field advantage, the Irish will also have to deal with the reigning national player of the week, junior first baseman Mason Katz.

“[LSU] is a few years removed from a national championship,” Aoki said. “They have a phenomenal atmosphere in which to play…I think five or six years running now they’ve led the country in attendance. I think they’ve had a stadium which is arguably the best college baseball facility in the country, and they get really good players, and good players play really well, you know?”

After finishing up in Baton Rouge on Monday, the Irish will head to Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, Texas to host the Irish Baseball Classic. Co-sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of San Antonio, the Classic has become an early season tradition for the Irish, who will host Houston Baptist, Kansas, Indiana State and Texas-San Antonio in this year’s edition.

With a high level of competition, Aoki said it will take an impressive showing to win the Classic’s championship game March 18.

“I think they’re all very competitive baseball teams,” he said. “So I think it’s one of those things where we don’t have a lot of margin for error — I think we have more margin for error than we did a year ago — but the bottom line is that in order for us to have success, in order for us to win, we have to be playing at or near the top of our game in order to do it, regardless of who the opponent is.”

The Irish will begin their whirlwind break Saturday against Michigan. First pitch will be thrown at 11 a.m.

 

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu and Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu