Notre Dame hosts No. 13 Florida State in ACC matchup
Alex Carson | Friday, March 24, 2017
Winners of four of its last five, Notre Dame will welcome sliding No. 13 Florida State to Frank Eck Stadium this weekend for a three-game ACC series.
After starting the year 3-11, the Irish (7-12, 2-4 ACC) are starting to hit their stride now, sophomore center fielder Matt Vierling said.
“We struggled at the beginning of the season, but now we’re just kind of on a roll,” Vierling said. “Everybody’s playing well and it happened to us last year — we started out a little slow and we just kind of hit our stride. I think we’re doing that right now. I think we’re having a lot of fun playing — it’s a lot of fun winning, a lot better than losing — but I think everyone is having a great time and everyone is really confident in themselves.”
They’ll welcome a Seminoles squad (15-7, 3-3) that took a tumble from No. 1 to No. 13 after a tumultuous five-game stretch a week ago. Florida State lost a 1-0 decision at No. 11 Florida on March 14, then followed it up with a 5-2 loss at No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast the next night.
The real shocker, however, was Florida State’s performance on the road at unranked Virginia Tech last weekend: the Seminoles won just the first of the three-game set, dropping the series finale in a 17-0 rout. Florida State picked up a win the last time out, against Jacksonville, but needed three runs in the bottom of the ninth to avoid a fifth loss in six games.
Vierling said the Seminoles’ recent downturn presents an opportunity for the Irish in their first home ACC series.
“It’s always fun playing against [top] teams; they always have that aura of [being] one of the best teams in the country always, but lately, they’ve kind of slipped up and we’ve noticed it,” Vierling said. “We’re hoping we can take advantage of it.”
After a rough first couple of weeks, Notre Dame’s starting pitchers have returned to form recently, Irish head coach Mik Aoki said. Last Friday, junior right-hander Brandon Bielak (1-3) went six innings, giving up two runs, to pick up the win at Pittsburgh, before the Irish split starts by graduate student southpaw Michael Hearne and junior right-hander Brad Bass, neither of whom allowed an earned run.
“What they’ve done probably the last two or three weekends is kind of what — I think we all sort of expected that from them early,” Aoki said. “And we just scuffled with it a little bit. I think Brandon’s been pretty good … I think Brad has been very good outside of his very first start, against [UC Irvine]. Mike was really good, I thought, this past weekend. Hopefully we can line it up again.”
Last time out, Notre Dame opened its home slate with a 12-1 win over Northern Illinois. Vierling led Irish hitters with three RBIs on Tuesday, but seven of the nine starters notched at least one in the win.
The series is scheduled to get underway Friday night at 6:05 p.m. with Bielak toeing the slab. Saturday’s contest is set for 4:05 p.m., while first pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. in Sunday’s series finale.