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Baseball

Irish to finish out homestand with conference series against NC State

| Friday, March 31, 2017

After being swept in a three-game series by No. 12 Florida State over the weekend, Notre Dame found itself in a familiar position, down three runs early to Chicago State during Tuesday night’s matchup.

However, instead of another loss and another letdown, the Irish (8-15, 2-7 ACC) rebounded and clawed their way back to win 7-4 against the Cougars (6-16, 2-1 Western Athletic) at Frank Eck Stadium.

Irish senior southpaw Scott Tully prepares to throw a pitch during Notre Dame's 12-1 win over Northern Illinois on March 21 at Frank Eck Stadium.Allison Culver | The Observer

Irish senior southpaw Scott Tully delivers a pitch during Notre Dame’s 12-1 win over Northern Illinois on March 21 at Frank Eck Stadium.

Down 4-1 in the fourth inning, Notre Dame began to stage its comeback in the bottom of the frame thanks to some small-ball offense: Two walks, a bunt and two RBI groundouts plated two Irish runs and cut the lead to one without the ball ever leaving the infield. Junior outfielder Jake Johnson knotted the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI double, then he scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. The Irish padded their cushion in the eighth on a two-run double by senior catcher Ryan Lidge to stretch the lead to 7-4, and junior lefty Sean Guenther, after 2 2/3 innings of work, earned the save as well as praise from Irish head coach Mik Aoki.

“I thought Sean Guenther was really good,” Aoki said. “Outside of [his performance] … I didn’t think we were as locked in as we should have been, and I think that we were extremely fortunate to have come away with a win. I think there’s a lot of ways that you could say we probably got outplayed, but with that having been said, there’s something to be said for the team to go out there and win when we’re not at our best. We should have been more locked in, but thankfully Sean came in and was great — pitched really efficiently — and offensively, we did just enough to capitalize on the opportunities that we had.”

Looking to get back on a winning streak, the Irish will play their final three games of a nine-game homestand when North Carolina State visits Frank Eck Stadium this weekend. Aoki said he believes his team has the capability to string together some wins starting this weekend, but he also recognizes the Wolfpack (14-12, 4-5 ACC) are a quality team.

“They’re a good team — they always are,” Aoki said. “I continue to think that this team is going to go out there and run eight, nine in a row off, because I think we’re eminently capable of doing that. We just have to clean some things up, get better in terms pitching in the strike zone a little bit more. But having said that, the last three weekends our starting pitching has gone out there and done a really, really good job. Hopefully we get good efforts from [junior pitcher] Brandon [Bielak], [graduate student left-handed pitcher Michael Hearne] and [junior right-handed pitcher] Brad [Bass] again and then start to find our way a little bit more offensively.

“I’m looking forward to [this weekend]. It’s always been a competitive series with N.C. State, and hopefully, that’ll be the case again.”

Friday’s first pitch against the Wolfpack will be at 6:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium.

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