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Baseball

Irish travel to South Carolina

| Thursday, March 3, 2016

After taking three of four games at the Alamo Irish Classic last weekend, Notre Dame heads into spring break looking to build on its newfound momentum.

Junior righty Ryan Smoyer, who has opened the season with a 1.35 ERA in two starts, said the way his team was able to win two close games last weekend should give them confidence heading into a tough stretch.

“It’s great, especially the comebacks — those walk-offs,” Smoyer said. “The game where we gave up the lead late and were able to battle back and grab that win is huge. It really gives the pitching staff confidence to know that we can come back and get bailed out by our hitters. They did a great job all weekend at having really good at-bats.

“Especially in the beginning of the season, it just seems like the bats across college baseball are a little behind. To know that we have that kind of support behind us, not only in the field but at the plate is a great feeling.”

Irish junior Ryan Smoyer pitches during Notre Dame’s 8-3 win over Central Michigan on March 18 at Frank Eck Stadium. Smoyer is currently leading Notre Dame with a 1.35 ERA through seven games.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish junior Ryan Smoyer pitches during Notre Dame’s 8-3 win over Central Michigan on March 18 at Frank Eck Stadium. Smoyer is currently leading Notre Dame with a 1.35 ERA through seven games.

Over the first weekend of break, the Irish (4-3) hit the road for the USA Baseball-Irish Classic in Cary, North Carolina, at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

Notre Dame will face opponents from four different conferences at the classic, including Alabama (7-1) on Friday, Brown (0-0) and Bucknell (4-3) in a Saturday doubleheader and Niagara (2-8) to conclude the Classic on Sunday morning.

While each of these teams will present a specific challenge to the Irish, the Crimson Tide, who have won their last six games, will arguably be their toughest opponent.

Then, following the conclusion of the USA Baseball Irish Classic, the Irish will head to Louisville the following weekend to take on the No. 5 Cardinals (5-2) in a three-game series, kicking off ACC play for both squads.

“This weekend, Alabama’s an SEC team with a lot of potential, and Louisville is ranked pretty high in the polls across most of college baseball,” Smoyer said. “To have those teams this early is challenging, but it also puts the task upon us to raise our level of commitment as far as our work goes day to day. The focus we put into our preparation with those kinds of teams is a great challenge that we’re ready to take on, and, especially with the talent those teams bring, it’s going be a great test to see what we’re made of right away. Hopefully down the road it helps us out.”

Following the end of the a stressful midterms week, Smoyer said being able to focus on baseball should help the team gel early in the season.

“We’re gonna be travelling a lot over spring break,” Smoyer said. “We have a little bit of a bus ride from North Carolina to Kentucky when we’re in between those two weekend series, but for our routine it doesn’t really change much. … It’s just a little more down time. Guys get to kind of hang out and decompress from the stress of the academics that have been hitting us at the end of this half of the semester. It kind of gives us that mental break and allows us to focus on something other than academics for a little while.”

The Irish will play seven road games over break before returning for their home opener against Toledo on March 16.

The USA Baseball-Irish Classic gets under way Friday evening as Notre Dame faces Alabama in Cary, North Carolina.

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