ND prepares for Irish Alamo Invite
Mary Green | Thursday, February 19, 2015
Notre Dame will escape the South Bend snow and cold this weekend when it travels to San Antonio for the Irish Alamo Invitational.
The Irish (3-1) will take on Incarnate Word, Villanova and Northwestern in the tournament, which they enter coming off a 3-1 start to their season in Oklahoma.
Notre Dame has traveled to San Antonio six out of the last seven years for the invitational, held at Nelson Wolff Stadium.
“You’ve got a certain level of comfort [at the tournament], and I think that familiarity and the comfort that it breeds allows you to play at a pretty high level,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “Obviously, part of the challenge of going on the road is that oftentimes, you could be going into a place you’ve never been, and just that level of uncertainty might just affect you a little bit, but this is a place where three out of our four classes on the team have been. It’s a good setup.”
The Irish will take on Incarnate Word (2-2) on Thursday, Villanova (0-2) on Friday and Northwestern (0-3) on Saturday, with a potential championship game Sunday. Though Notre Dame collected more wins during its opening tournament than this weekend’s opponents combined, Aoki said his team should not consider itself as a favorite heading into the matchups.
“It’s so early in the season to say that, well, Northwestern, who played Oregon State and Michigan State — they played three really quality teams, and they were all three tight games,” he said. “So for us to say that we’re some sort of prohibitive favorite, I think, would be really, incredibly getting ahead of ourselves.”
Last weekend, Aoki started junior left-hander Michael Hearne, senior right-hander Scott Kerrigan, freshman right-hander Brandon Bielak and junior right-hander Nick McCarty, respectively, and he said he plans to send that same quartet to the mound this weekend in the same order.
“Hopefully, Nick is pitching in the championship game, but if not, we’re just going to go down there, and we’re going to try to get better and compete every pitch as well as we can,” Aoki said.
He added he wants to see his players have a competitive attitude this Friday to Sunday.
“I think the big thing for me is, I don’t really look at last weekend and feel as though we played absolutely at our potential, but I feel as though we came pretty darn close to playing as well as we can in terms of our compete factor, and that’s what I want to see because that’s completely controllable,” Aoki said. “ … Sometimes performances are gonna be great, and sometimes they’re not gonna be so great, but if the compete factor is there, we can still manage to take a weekend, three out of four, when maybe we didn’t play at our very best.”
As Notre Dame is just starting its season, its first two weekends feature four-game series, while the majority of the rest of the season will consist of three-game weekend series. That extra game helps the team solidify factors like its starting lineup, especially with ACC play opening in just two weeks, Aoki said.
“There’s so many things that are still up in the air,” he said. “I think the playing four-game weekends early really kind of gives you an indication of how guys are gonna react when the games count for real.”
The Irish take on Incarnate Word tonight at 6:05 p.m. at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio to open the Irish Alamo Invitational. They will later face Villanova on Friday and Northwestern on Saturday.