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BASEBALL: Kapala to get first career start against Eagles

Matt Lozar | Friday, April 8, 2005

Sitting at 14-13 overall, 3-3 in the Big East and traveling to conference leader Boston College this weekend, Irish coach Paul Mainieri refuses to panic.

“It’s a hard thing for you to believe, but it’s still early in the season,” Mainieri said. “We’ve only played six league games, we still have 18 to go. It’s obvious that we have some areas in our team that aren’t playing up to the level that we are accustomed to over the past decade.”

With the slow start to this season, the only way the Irish are getting into the NCAA tournament is by winning the Big East postseason tournament.

After Wednesday’s 14-5 loss to Ball State, Mainieri spoke of how the team needs to reestablish its goals for this season, which now entail finishing in the top four in the conference and grabbing the conference’s automatic bid.

Losing five players to the Major League Baseball draft, along with the slow recoveries of John Axford and Jeff Manship, has hurt the Irish in trying to maintain the success this program has experienced during the Mainieri era.

“Every year we’ve been playing for the regular season championship or the NCAA – we’re thinking College World Series,” Mainieri said. “All of a sudden you lose some great players, and you can’t overcome it as much as you should have.”

Trying to find some sort of spark for a team that hasn’t gotten hot yet, Mainieri will start pitcher Dan Kapala in the opening game of the series against the Eagles. Kapala is getting his first career start, which pushes back Tom Thornton to the No. 2 starting position against Boston College, a place where he pitched for the majority of the 2004 season.

“We’re going to try something this weekend. Dan Kapala is going get his first career start in the seven inning game at Boston College,” Mainieri said. “Danny throws the ball as hard as anyone we’ve got and in a seven-inning game, if he can give us 5, 6, maybe even a complete game – all of a sudden you have Tom Thornton pitching in the two slot, which gives us a better matchup.

“Maybe that saves the bullpen a little for game three,” he continued. “I’m hoping that will be a spark for us.”

Last season Notre Dame split its regular-season series with Boston College before defeating the Eagles in the opening round and the title game of the Big East Tournament.

Boston College leads the Big East with a 6-1 record, with all of those conference games coming on the road.

“They are doing well. You can see their program growing through the years. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us,” Mainieri said. “We have to go out there and compete hard this weekend and get whatever we can, come back and regroup and hopefully make our stretch run at home.”

Manship is slated to start game three of the weekend series. He didn’t make the trip to Rutgers last weekend after feeling some discomfort during his mid-week throwing.

But Mainieri said Manship felt pretty good after throwing on Tuesday.

“He’ll start the game on Sunday at Boston, hopefully give us two or three innings and be a step in his progression,” Mainieri said.