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Baseball

Notre Dame looks to get back on track in North Carolina

| Thursday, March 2, 2017

This weekend, Notre Dame will head to Cary, North Carolina, to participate in the USA Baseball-Irish Classic.

The tournament is held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex and the Irish (1-6) will look to get out of the early-season rut they have found themselves in. With just one win on the season, the Irish walked away disappointed last weekend during a West Coast trip in which they went 0-3, losing to UC Irvine, San Diego and San Diego State.

Pinpointing the Irish difficulties to this point has been tricky, as the team seemed to lose each game in a different way during its time out at the Tony Gwynn Classic. That being said, Irish head coach Mik Aoki has noticed early on where his team needs some improvement and said that his team has been working on those issues over the past week through practice and training.

Senior infielder Kyle Fiala rounds the bases during Notre's 4-1 victory over Boston College on April 15 at Frank Eck Stadium.Chris Collins | The Observer

Senior infielder Kyle Fiala rounds the bases during Notre’s 4-1 victory over Boston College on April 15 at Frank Eck Stadium.

“We’ll practice early on this week with some of the guys who didn’t throw on the weekend, but we’re also going to do some individual skill work,” Aoki said. “We’re going to work on finding the right combination in the infield and focus on getting our pitchers to pitch for contact, regardless of what is going on behind them. Our pitchers have been trying to get the opponent by pitching fast, but often times we will find ourselves against teams good enough to sit on a fastball. We just have to keep working, grinding and trying to get better.”

Play for the Irish will get underway on Friday afternoon against Maryland. On Saturday, the team will play a double header, the first game coming against UMass Lowell and the second against Rhode Island. The weekend will be capped off on Sunday morning when Notre Dame takes on Monmouth. Ultimately the team will be hoping for a better outcome than they have seen in its first two weekends of action to start the season. While recognizing the team has some problems it needs to fix, Aoki said he isn’t hitting the panic button quite yet as he acknowledges that every team goes through ups and downs throughout the season.

“If you kind of picture the season on a line graph, you see yourself getting from one point to another, and a lot of times people see it as just one steady, uphill climb, but in reality it doesn’t work that way,” Aoki said. “You’re going to have ups and downs, but when all is said and done you hope to have made some progress.”

The Irish are hoping the first steps to putting this season back on track start this weekend, but that will certainly take some adjustments from the way the team has been playing. For Aoki, he’s taken note of what he thinks will be some of his team’s biggest keys to success this weekend, chief among them being able to take advantage of free chances while limiting the opponent’s.

“I think the biggest thing is we have to win the free 90s, meaning walks, hit by pitches, errors, and stolen bases,” Aoki said. “We have strong catching, yet teams have already been able to steal bases on us, so outside of a couple coaching decisions to not try to catch them, that’s on our pitching staff. We have to do a better job to give our catcher a chance. For us, trying to win the free 90s within the game is key.”

Play kicks off at 4:30 p.m. for the Irish when they face the Terrapins (1-5), looking to get out of the loss column and get the season going in the right direction.

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