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Baseball

Irish bats ready for Oklahoma’s heat

| Friday, February 13, 2015

Notre Dame is more than ready for this upcoming season.

When the Irish head to Norman, Oklahoma, this weekend, they can put last season’s weather-related challenges behind them.

“They’re ready to get out of here,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “The position guys are ready to face some pitchers that aren’t our own, and our pitchers are sick of facing our own hitters, and it’s just time for us to get up there and play.”

Notre Dame plays SIU Edwardsville and Oklahoma in a Friday doubleheader and then takes on Oklahoma again on Saturday and Sunday to complete a three-game series.

Irish sophomore infielder Kyle Fiala squares to bunt May 9 during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Clemson at Frack Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish sophomore infielder Kyle Fiala squares to bunt May 9 during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Clemson at Frack Eck Stadium.

SIU Edwardsville ended last season with a 21-33 record overall and a 16-14 mark in Ohio Valley.

Oklahoma finished 29-29 and 8-16 in the Big 12 in 2014.

“They’ve got talented arms,” Aoki said of Oklahoma. “They’ve got kids with big arms. They throw hard and all of that. … Saturday guy, [sophomore right-hander Alec] Hansen, he’s a guy who gets up to throwing almost 100 [miles per hour], so they’ve got good arms. We’ve just got to go in there, do our thing and not be overly concerned about who it is that we’re facing, just be concerned about the things that we can control.”

This weekend gives the Irish starters their first opportunities to perform in their roles. The starters have security in their chance to get their seasons rolling, Aoki said.

“I think that there’s some curiosity in terms of what some of the guys that we aren’t starting might be capable of doing, for certain,” Aoki said. “But I think that the guys who are starting have, in our minds at least, won those jobs, and so we’re going to give them a little opportunity to see what they can do.

“Unfortunately, unlike the big leagues, where they’ve got 30 games of spring training, we have to tee it up and be ready to go.”

Last season, Notre Dame played even its home games on the road until the last few matchups of the season because snow delayed the completion of FieldTurf installation. The Irish posted a 22-31 overall record and a 9-21 mark in the ACC but closed out the season with six games at home, winning five of them against Clemson and Pittsburgh.

Irish sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio pulls a pitch foul May 9 in Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Clemson at Frank Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio pulls a pitch foul May 9 in Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Clemson at Frank Eck Stadium.

“Our outlook going into those [last few] games changed so much because we were finally playing at home, and it breathed some excitement into an otherwise challenging year,” Aoki said. “And I think the lesson that we tried to take from it was that perspective plays a really big deal in this. The way in which you choose to look at things makes a really big deal.”

Notre Dame has not forgotten that lesson, Aoki said.

“Those last six games of the year, we really looked at it from a positive state of mind, and our kids … just kind of played with clear minds and a positive outlook, and I think that piece really has carried over to this year’s team,” he said.

The Irish return the majority of their regulars this season and add eight freshman to the roster.

“These guys are at a really good place in terms of where they are from their confidence level, from the culture of our team, and I think at this point, our preparation has been really, really good, and they’re just ready,” Aoki said.

The Irish head to Norman, Oklahoma, to match up against SIU Edwardsville at 2 p.m. Friday and against Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. All games are scheduled at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

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