The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Powerful Irish face struggling Cougars

Chris Federico | Tuesday, April 6, 2004

The Irish reserves ought to be excited.

No. 5 Notre Dame – coming off a three-game sweep of Big East rival Villanova and riding a nine-game winning streak – returns to action today to host hapless Chicago State (1-26).

Notre Dame position players who usually sit the bench and Irish pitchers who rarely make it out to the mound will likely have a chance to play against the heavily out-manned Cougars.

To say the Cougars have struggled this season would be an understatement. As a team, Chicago State has hit a paltry .203 this season, while opponents have batted .421. In 27 games, the Cougars have scored just 69 runs, or 2.55 a game. In comparison, their opponents have put 406 runs on the board for a staggering average of 15 runs per game.

Jonathan Sakurai leads the Cougars in hitting with a .293 average, but his next closest teammate is John Torres, who is batting .243 on the year. The Cougars have been shutout in eight games this season, while the Irish have gone 109 consecutive games without suffering a shutout by comparison.

On the mound, the Cougars have experienced more of the same futility. The Chicago State pitchers have put up a team ERA of 14.59, while its opponents’ ERA is 2.16.

Meanwhile, the Irish (22-3, 6-0) are beginning to click on all cylinders after their second straight three-game sweep in Big East play.

The Irish are batting .319 as a team and are led at the plate by shortstop Greg Lopez with a .372 batting average. Third baseman Matt Macri, who was named Big East Player of the Week for his 6-for-12 performance against Villanova over the weekend, is batting .356 and leads the team in runs scored (28) and RBI (26). Macri was also likely acknowledged for his stellar defensive play in the series, getting 16 chances in the field without making an error, while adding several Major League-caliber stops at the hot corner.

First baseman Matt Edwards and designated hitter Matt Bransfield are tied for the team lead in home runs with five a piece.

The Irish are currently third in the Big East in team batting – three points behind the leader Pittsburgh at .322 and one behind St. John’s at .320.

Notre Dame leads the Big East in pitching with a staff ERA of 3.62 and possesses an opponent batting average of .245.

The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium today.