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Baseball: Irish battle four-game losing streak

Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Win five. Lose five. Win three. Lose four.

Those streaks have been the marks of a wildly inconsistent season for the Irish, but they will try again to bounce back and snap out of their latest four-game skid in an intrastate showdown against Butler tonight.

The three most recent Notre Dame (22-20, 9-9 Big East) setbacks came last weekend at the hands of conference-leading St. John’s. Despite the sweep, the Irish had their chances throughout the series. Notre Dame lost each game by just two runs and stranded a total of 17 runners in scoring position. Friday’s opener may have been the most frustrating near-miss, as the Irish committed five errors in the field, leading to five unearned runs and a 6-4 loss.

Irish coach Mik Aoki said youth could be one factor for the team’s struggle to find a way to win.

“I hope [the recent inconsistency] is part of the maturation process,” he said. “I think we certainly need to learn how to win games. You look at that first game on Friday and a championship caliber team is going to win that game, and they won it.”

Another issue for Notre Dame has been its inability to turn in a complete performance in all facets of the game. Even when the team finds success both in the field and at the plate – as it did in the first half of Friday’s doubleheader – it can be undone by mistakes in the field.

“I think sometimes it’s that we just haven’t played well enough and some other instances it’s just a combination where we weren’t able to put a pitching performance together with a hitting performance with a defensive performance,” Aoki said. “I think it’s just one of those things where there’s a whole lot of things that play into it.”

With the calendar turning to May and the postseason looming ever closer, the Irish must continue to improve against the Bulldogs (20-24, 8-13 Horizon). Butler is also entering on the wrong side of a losing spell, as the team has lost nine of its last 11, but also boasts likes of junior first baseman Jimmy Risi, who leads the Horizon League with 10 home runs.

With the potential postseason implications of every remaining game, Aoki said the time is now for his team to find its stride and end its run of inconsistent play.

“I think the Butler game is really important for us,” Aoki said. “I think it’s important that we come out and put forth a really good effort, put forth a really good approach.”

“We’re in the midst of a four-game losing streak, and you certainly don’t want to extend it to five. You’re going against a team that’s seemingly getting hot at the right time at the end of the week with Villanova, and I think we’re fighting for our [NCAA] tournament lives at this point right now. So I think it’s important that we do start playing better and feeling better about ourselves.”

The Irish will square off with Butler tonight at Frank Eck Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 5:35 p.m.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu