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Baseball

Notre Dame to host No. 2 Hurricanes in three-game set

| Friday, April 8, 2016

The Irish will look to keep their string of strong performances going this weekend against the highest-ranked team they’ve faced all season — No. 2 Miami.

The Hurricanes (24-4, 10-2 ACC) come into the series as one of the hottest teams in all of college baseball. They’ve won their last eight games and 19 of their last 21 stretching back to the beginning of March.

But Notre Dame (16-11, 6-6 ACC) is on a hot streak of its own. The Irish have won eight of their last nine as well as 10 of 13.

Irish senior infielder Lane Richards swings at a pitch during Notre Dame’s 10-2 win against Wake Forest on April 3. Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish senior infielder Lane Richards swings at a pitch during Notre Dame’s 10-2 win against Wake Forest on April 3.

In Tuesday night’s win over then No. 17 Michigan, the Irish offense put up nine runs to extend its torrid streak of scoring five or more to 10 straight.

That streak will be tested against a Miami pitching staff that has limited ACC opponents to a .263 batting average against so far this season.

Notre Dame will likely need to rely on junior second baseman Cavan Biggio to continue getting on base and scoring runs, as he leads Irish starters in both categories with a .522 on base percentage and 26 runs scored on the season.

The team’s recent success, however, has come as a result of finding contributions up and down the lineup as well as a starting pitching staff that has been nothing short of dominant over the last few weeks.

Miami will counter with a balanced team of its own. On the mound, the Hurricanes field a trio of pitchers who all boast sub-3 ERAs – sophomore Jesse Lepore, junior Danny Garcia and sophomore Michael Mediavilla. And at the plate, the team is led by junior catcher Zach Collins and sophomore center fielder Carl Chester, both of whom have batting averages well over .400 in conference play.

Irish senior shortstop and co-captain Lane Richards, who has six hits and six runs scored in his last three games for Notre Dame, said the team’s success in recent weeks should give it confidence heading into such a tough matchup.

“We just need to keep playing like we’ve been playing,” Richards said. “We’ve really been on a roll, the last couple weeks especially. We’ve really found ourselves and kind of our team identity. That identity is work hard, put the past in the past – whatever happens, focus on the next pitch and really grind through games. And so with that kind of identity that we’ve built up, I think we’re ready to take on anyone.”

Although Notre Dame has the advantage of having played in colder weather more recently than Miami, Richards does not think it should affect how the games are played.

“I think the only advantage [the weather] gives us is if [the Hurricanes] let it,” Richards said. “I think we play the same no matter what the weather is, and — we don’t take pride in playing in the cold, but we’re just as ready as we are for any other game.”

After having to reschedule Wednesday night’s game against Valparaiso to next Wednesday because of rain, the Irish again had to change their schedule with inclement weather expected for the weekend. Friday night’s game has been pushed back to Saturday afternoon.

Should no other changes to the schedule be made, the series will open with a doubleheader Saturday. Game one will start at 1 p.m. with game two immediately following. All three games of the series will be played at Frank Eck Stadium.

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