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Baseball

Irish headed to MSU

| Monday, April 14, 2014

After winning their first conference series as a member of the ACC this weekend, the Irish look to maintain their perfect record in midweek contests as they travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take on Michigan State on Tuesday.

The Spartans (20-13, 5-4 Big Ten), who took two of three from Purdue over the weekend, have won 10 of their last 13 games. Three of those wins were shutouts, and in nine of the 10, the Michigan State pitching staff held its opponents to three runs or fewer. The Spartan hurlers sport a 2.93 ERA and .244 opponent batting average, the best in the Big Ten.

They will send redshirt senior right-hander Chase Rihtarchik (0-2) to the mound for Tuesday’s game. Rihtarchik has put together a 5.62 ERA in six appearances this season.

The Irish batters seem to have emerged from a collective slump that marred much of the early conference season and have finished with 10 or more hits in eight of their last 10 games.

“Obviously, you’d like to get some of those hits at times that are a little bit more timely, but I think overall, I think that we’ve been making progress,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “I think we have been getting better. Starting out in the league at whatever it was, 1-14, it would’ve been easy for our guys to sort of say, ‘Ah, to heck with it, we’re going to mail this in,’ and they haven’t, to their credit.”

Although the Irish (14-21, 3-15 ACC) struggled in the ACC before taking two of three from Boston College in Chicago last weekend, Notre Dame has yet to lose a midweek game, most of which are played against local rivals.

Today, sophomore righty Nick McCarty (2-6) will start for the Irish. McCarty has a 3.91 ERA in eight starts.

“Our midweek pitching has been really good and has given our offense an opportunity to not feel like they’ve playing from behind and achieve a little comfort,” Aoki said. “We’ve been able to scratch out a little bit of a lead. In particular, [sophomore left-hander] Michael Hearne and [junior right-hander] Scott Kerrigan and Nick McCarty have done a really good job of solidifying the midweek [pitching].”

The Irish, who are now hitting .249 as a team, are led at the plate by junior first baseman Blaise Lezynski, who is hitting .338 this season. Lezynski had five hits, three RBI and a run scored in Saturday’s doubleheader against Boston College.

Although the Spartans lead the all-time series between Notre Dame and Michigan State, 78-54, the Irish have won four of the last five, including a 7-3 win when the teams last met April 24.

The Irish look to stretch their winning streak to three when they face the Spartans at McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday.

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