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Baseball: Rockets frustrate Irish pitchers in loss

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Toledo senior center fielder Ben Hammer responded to the Irish pitching staff as if he were in batting practice Tuesday, as he knocked in two home runs and five RBI on four hits to lead the Rockets to a 15-3 win over the Irish at Scott Park in Toledo, Ohio.

“Obviously, Hammer was hitting the ball pretty darn good off us today,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “When you’re not pitching that well, I think anyone can do some damage against you.”

The Irish pitching battery struggled all afternoon, as sophomore right-hander Matt Ternowchek started the game and lasted just one inning. Ternowchek gave up three runs on two hits, one of which was Hammer’s first home run of the game. After allowing two more runs in the third inning, freshman right-hander Nick McCarty had the Irish (22-16, 4-8 Big East) back on track for a bit, but he allowed Hammer’s second home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Rockets (15-24, 6-9 MAC) put the Irish away for good with six runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh.

“We just weren’t very good,” Aoki said of his team’s performance. “I think our pitching just put us too far behind the eight-ball, and it’s difficult to play offense that way.”

One of the bright spots in the Notre Dame box score was sophomore left fielder Connor Biggio, who had three hits  but never crossed the plate. Junior first baseman Trey Mancini had two RBI on two hits and scored Notre Dame’s other run himself. 

The game was originally scheduled to be played at Notre Dame, but an unpromising forecast for Tuesday afternoon in South Bend convinced the teams to move the contest to Toledo.

The loss is a disappointing development for the Irish, who were hoping to build on the three-game win streak that began with a sweep of Quinnipiac over the weekend. Instead, Notre Dame slipped back into the type of play that lead to its six-game losing streak earlier this month. 

“I don’t think overall we’ve played particularly well since maybe the Kent State game almost a month ago,” Aoki said. “We’ve had some bright spots and some good moments here and there, but we haven’t consistently played as well as we did for the first 20 games of the season.”

The Irish will return to Frank Eck Stadium tomorrow, and freshman right-hander Zac Kutsulis will take the mound against No. 23 Michigan State (22-11, 5-4 Big Ten).

“Certainly, [Michigan State] handled us pretty easily in the last two seasons,” Aoki said, adding that the Irish lost their 2011 home finale to the Spartans by a score of 20-3. “We’ll have to play well to come out with a good result.”

Notre Dame and Michigan State will meet tonight at 5:35 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu