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Baseball

Notre Dame hosts round-robin in Texas

| Wednesday, February 19, 2014

After facing a preseason top-25 team to open the season, the Irish will take a step down in competition this weekend when they host the Irish Baseball Classic in San Antonio.

Irish senior pitcher Sean Fitzgerald delivers a pitch during a game in 2012. Fitzgerald will pitch Saturday against Incarnate Word in the Irish Baseball Classic.Observer File Photo

Irish senior pitcher Sean Fitzgerald delivers a pitch during a game in 2012. Fitzgerald will pitch Saturday against Incarnate Word in the Irish Baseball Classic.

Notre Dame (1-2) lost its opening series to No. 24 Florida Atlantic after it dropped the final two games by 10 runs apiece. In the three-game set, the Irish committed 10 errors and allowed 14 unearned runs.

“We didn’t discriminate against any type of error,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said.

Notre Dame pitchers also struggled with their control, walking 20 batters, hitting six more and throwing four wild pitches.

“Put all that together and it’s a bad recipe,” Aoki said.

This weekend, the Irish will play Santa Clara, Gonzaga and Incarnate Word, three teams that combined for 46 Division I-wins in 2013. Notre Dame won 34 games a season ago.

The four teams will play each other round-robin style before playing a fourth game Sunday. Unless Santa Clara and Gonzaga are slated to play again Sunday, the top two teams would meet in a quasi-championship game while the bottom two play.

Both schools are in the West Coast Conference (WCC) and wanted to avoid playing twice before their future three-game series.

The Irish face Santa Clara (1-4) Thursday. The Broncos went just 14-39 last year, including 1-23 in the WCC. Santa Clara returns just one player that hit above .300 last season in senior outfielder Casey Munoz. Munoz also led the Broncos in hits (64), doubles (10) and RBIs (31) in 2013.

On Friday, Notre Dame will take on Gonzaga (1-3). The Bulldogs won the regular-season WCC title last year but failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga lost a pair of starting pitchers with ERAs less than 3.00 and do not return any pitchers with more than eight starts.

The Bulldogs nearly beat Oregon State (ranked in the top five by all five polls) in their season-opener but fell 4-3.

“Gonzaga’s probably the best team we’ll see this weekend,” Aoki said.

Incarnate Word (1-2) is in its first season of Division I play after spending 14 years in Division II. The Cardinals made the Division II NCAA Tournament four times during that span. Incarnate Word is not eligible for postseason competition this year due to its transition from Division II.

Aoki said the Irish would change up their starting pitching rotation due to the unusually long break between the first series and the Irish Baseball Classic.

Sophomore right-hander Nick McCarty (0-1, 11.57 ERA) will get the ball Thursday against Santa Clara while junior transfer left-hander Robert Youngdahl (0-0, 3.38) will make his first start for the Irish on Friday.

Senior right-hander Sean Fitzgerald (1-0, 3.60), the normal No. 1 starter, will go Saturday to ensure six days of rest, Aoki said. Junior right-hander Scott Kerrigan (0-1, 11.57) will start Sunday’s game.

Aoki said freshman infielder Kyle Fiala would get the start at third base this weekend. Last week, Aoki said Fiala and juniors Kevin DeFilipis and Phil Mosey were all vying for playing time at the hot corner.

DeFilipis started all three games against Florida Atlantic and went 1-for-8 with six strikeouts and two errors.

Notre Dame plays Santa Clara at 8 p.m., Gonzaga at 1:30 p.m. and Incarnate Word at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively. The fourth game will be at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu

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About Matthew DeFranks

Matthew DeFranks is an Assistant Managing Editor and a senior Finance major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor from Miami. He loves a solid 2-3 zone, Sperry's, fantasy football drafts, How I Met Your Mother, Cuban food, free parking, beaches, good hip-hop and airports. He hates wearing white socks, the Florida Gators, pickles, Shakespeare, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the Patriots, death metal, Ed Hardy shirts and airports.

Contact Matthew