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Baseball: Squad travels to Texas in search of consistency

Michael Bryan | Friday, March 14, 2008

After dropping two of three games last weekend in Corpus Christi, Notre Dame returns to the Lone Star state this weekend in search of better results in San Antonio at the Irish Baseball Classic.

The Irish (5-6), will begin the tournament today at 1 p.m. at Wolff Stadium against Buffalo (4-9). Notre Dame, playing the Bulls for the first time in team history, will start junior David Phelps in the opener.

Notre Dame coach Dave Schrage said he is looking for more stability both at bat and on the mound over the weekend.

“The frustration comes when we can’t play consistent baseball and see results on consecutive days,” Schrage said.

Phelps has struggled to find consistency on the mound this season. The righty had a rough start in the season-opening loss to Liberty, but recovered with seven shutout innings in his next start against Mount St. Mary’s on March 1. Phelps, who posted a 1.88 ERA last season, is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA after four starts.

Despite a slow start, Buffalo enters the game with some momentum after sweeping a doubleheader Wednesday in San Antonio. The Bulls doubled their win total for the season with wins over Southern Illinois and Trinity.

The Irish will face off next against Southern Illinois on Saturday, starting senior lefthander Wade Korpi. The Salukis (5-6) will start also start a southpaw, senior Shawn Joy, who has a 1-1 record and a 3.31 ERA on the year.

Looking to lead the Notre Dame offense in the tournament is junior Evan Sharpley. In his last five games, Sharpley has batted .500 with two homers and five RBI, including a walk-off home run to give the Irish a win over Maine.

Sophomore Eric Maust will make his first start of the season Sunday, taking the mound for the Irish against Texas Pan-American in the tournament finale. Maust has a 2.89 ERA from the bullpen this season, and will attempt to shore up Notre Dame’s struggling starting pitching.

Shortstop Brett Lilley is also entering the weekend with hitting momentum for the Irish. The senior, who has started 187 consecutive games, enters the weekend with a five-game hitting streak. Lilley, who led Notre Dame in batting average last season, has a hit in 10 of 11 games this year.

The Irish enter the weekend after a 4-4 performance in eight games over spring break. Notre Dame won over Mount St. Mary’s, St. Bonaventure and Maine in the Papa John’s Challenge, and defeated South Alabama in the Whataburger Classic.

In the final game of the Whatburger Classic, the Irish matched up against No. 1 Arizona, and fell 16-0. After the defeat, Schrage said the team learned a lesson in how to perform under pressure.

“This showed us that when we relax and play our style, that we’re a pretty good team,” said Schrage. “But we went out there and played nervous.”