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Baseball

Squad takes on Western Michigan

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Before traveling to Maryland this weekend for a three-game ACC series, the Irish will play host to Western Michigan on Wednesday for a midweek nonconference matchup.

“[Western Michigan] has got a few good players and are a team that’s improving,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “I’m not sure who is throwing against us, but they are an improving team and gave us a run for our money last year. We have to go play well to try to get a win.”

Last season on May 14, Notre Dame (17-26, 4-17 ACC) held a 13-2 lead over Western Michigan (16-23, 6-12 MAC) going into the bottom of the ninth inning before the Broncos rallied furiously to put up eight runs. The Irish finally managed to close the door on a 13-10 win.

“They’re building, and they’re getting better,” Aoki said. “But, again, if there is anything that this year has proven, on any given day we can beat anyone and on any given day we can be beaten by anyone.”

Notre Dame will look to get back on track after dropping two of three games against Northeastern this weekend. Though the Irish claimed Friday’s matchup, they dropped both their Saturday and Sunday games.

“I don’t think we played particularly well over the weekend, even in our win, so we need to play better,” Aoki said. “Going into this last weekend, I thought we had about a four-week stretch where the results of wins and losses weren’t stellar. I thought we played pretty well though. I want to get back to just worrying about what we need to worry about, playing a little bit better, and putting a little bit more value on defense. Hopefully, we can come through with some timely hits, which really hurt us on Sunday.”

As the season progresses, Aoki said the team is looking beyond this year in some ways. Notre Dame has 11 regular season games left this spring, after playing 43 competitions since February.

“The only senior who is getting at-bats is [Irish senior catcher] Forrest Johnson and, if everything goes all right, we’d like to bring him back for a fifth year,” Aoki said. “So, you could make an argument that every guy on our roster will be coming back and they need the at-bats. As we look forward, and in the midst of a season like this, you are in some ways looking forward and trying to figure out where the wheels fell off and what you need to do differently going into next year.”

Going into the matchup against Western Michigan, Notre Dame has 15 players who have at least 20 at-bats this season. Of the 15, 12 have 60 or more at-bats this spring.

“We’ve gone pretty deep into our roster in terms of getting our guys at-bats,” Aoki said. “At some point, we’re just going to have to be better and develop. Our kids just need to improve. There are a lot of guys who have gotten the opportunity and then given it back. I think there have been bright spots for each of those kids, but for a lot of them, those bright spots have been few and far between.”

Notre Dame will return to action in a midweek game against Western Michigan. The Irish and Broncos face off Wednesday at 5:35 p.m., at Four Winds Field in South Bend, Ind.

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