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Baseball

After layoff, Notre Dame to face Indiana for 100th time

| Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Notre Dame will look to continue its recent string of success when it faces off with a historic rival Tuesday in Indianapolis.

The Irish (26-12, 11-10 ACC) will play in-state competitor Indiana for the 100th time. However, the two teams, who began the series in 1898, have not met since the 1998 season. The Irish hold the overall series advantage over the Hoosiers (21-15, 5-8 Big Ten), 67-31-1.

Notre Dame has emerged victorious in six of its seven weekday games, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of Toledo last Wednesday.

The Irish will also head to the diamond on the heels of a series victory over ACC opponent North Carolina State, taking two of the three games at Frank Eck Stadium.

Notre Dame won Friday’s opener, 2-0, despite recording just three hits, two of them coming from sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge.

Sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge stands in the batter’s box during a 4-2 loss to North Carolina State on April 18 at Frank Eck Stadium. Lidge leads the team in batting average (.328) and RBIs (26).Michael Yu | The Observer

Sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge stands in the batter’s box during a 4-2 loss to North Carolina State on April 18 at Frank Eck Stadium. Lidge leads the team in batting average (.328) and RBIs (26).

The team’s offensive struggles continued the next day in the first game of a doubleheader, which it lost, 4-2. The Irish collected seven hits in the 14-inning marathon, but none of them came after they plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings.

“I felt like we had good at-bats all through that first game, but we weren’t quite able to get the one we needed when we needed to push a run across,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said Saturday. “That’s the nature of baseball. If hitting were easy, everyone would be doing it.

“You just have to stay patient through it and persevere through it, and I thought our guys did a good job today.”

Notre Dame did persevere in the second game, coming off a 45-minute break to earn the 7-2 win and take the series.

Senior left fielder Ryan Bull accounted for three of Notre Dame’s nine hits in his five at-bats, including a ground-rule double, while junior shortstop Lane Richards belted a two-run homer in a four-run second inning for the Irish.

The three Irish pitchers, junior Nick McCarty and freshmen Brad Bass and Sean Guenther, allowed just four hits to the Wolfpack.

With the victory in Saturday’s finale, the Irish have won their last three series and are 10-2 in their most recent 12 games.

“The energy they brought after they lost that 14-inning game was outstanding. Our guys were locked in,” Aoki said. “This was a series where we didn’t get a ton of hits in it, but guys weren’t sitting there feeling sorry for themselves. They were trying to do everything they could to win. We got enough timely hits throughout the course of the weekend to come out with the series win.”

The Hoosiers come to Victory Field looking to snap a four-game losing streak, including the last two at the hands of Big Ten rival Illinois. Indiana has been outscored 18-7 in that span, which dates back to last Tuesday, despite averaging nearly nine hits per game and keeping pace with their opponents at the plate in three of the four games.

Even though Notre Dame travels to Indianapolis with momentum from recent ACC success and will face a struggling Hoosiers squad, Aoki said the Irish will look at the rest of their schedule game by game.

“We’ve kind of set as a goal that we were going to try to grind through and win each series, and since we’ve kind of hit that reset button a few weeks ago, and we’ve won three series in a row,” he said. “ … We’re just gonna take it one game at a time and just try to finish.”

First pitch between the Irish and the Hoosiers will come at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

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