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BASEBALL: Looking to get on a roll

Joe Hettler | Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Irish want to start rolling.

After losing four of five games, Notre Dame bounced back with a pair of victories last weekend against conference rival Boston College and improved to 5-4 in the Big East and 16-14 overall. They have a chance to make it three straight tonight, opening a 13-game home stand against Bowling Green (20-8) at Frank Eck Stadium for a 5:05 p.m. first pitch.

“I think it’s an important game for us,” Irish head coach Paul Mainieri said. “Personally I think those two games [against Boston College] are going to be the turning point to our season, so we need to keep it going … If we’re going to turn our season in the positive direction, this is the time to do. It is absolutely time for us to step it up and say we’re going to make our run right now.”

Notre Dame didn’t fare well against its last Mid-American conference opponent, Ball State, on April 6. John Axford had control problems, allowing five runs and five walks in just 1/3 inning of work as Ball State jumped out to 12-0 after three innings before winning 14-5.

“We’ve always played tough, close games against the MAC schools in the middle of the week,” Maineri said. “We’re in no position to take anyone lightly.”

The Irish dropped their first game of the Boston College series, but bounced back with two straight wins thanks to strong pitching performances from Tom Thornton, Jeff Manship and Jeff Samardzija. Thornton threw a complete game in Notre Dame’s 3-2 win in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, while Manship and Samardzija combined for a six-hit shut out in a 3-0 victory on Sunday.

After starting Brett Lilley at second base for the first part of the season, Mainieri moved the freshman to third for the final two games of the Boston College series. Lilley responded with several key defensive stops to keep the Eagles from reaching base. Mainieri said Lilley will be the every-day third baseman for the remainder of the season and a decision on the regular second baseman will be made in the next few days.

Derik Olvey gets his third start of the season tonight, after starting the season 1-1 in nine games. The Alabama native has truck out 17, walked six and recorded an impressive 3.18 ERA in 28 1/3 innings of work. Olvey missed 47 games of his freshman season with elbow soreness, but has been healthy all of 2005.

Bowling Green is coming off a 1-0 win over Buffalo on Sunday where starting pitcher Burke Badenhop threw a complete game shut out, striking out nine and yielding just four hits.

After beginning the season with a loss to Murray State, the Falcons won 11 of their next 12, including an 8-3 win against Big East opponent Connecticut on March 6. But Bowling Green couldn’t translate that momentum against Ball State in a March 26 and 27 weekend series. The Falcons dropped all three games to the Cardinals.

“Their team this year seems like they have a lot more balance,” Mainieri said. “They’re just going to be a really solid team. I’m sure it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought game, just like it always is with them.”