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Baseball: Irish tied for first in Big East

Fran Tolan | Friday, April 11, 2008

Notre Dame has climbed into a tie with St. John’s for first place in the Big East, but the Irish know that means every opponent will be gunning for them for the remainder of the season.

“Every series now from here on out – since we’re at the top – is going to be a big series,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said.

Notre Dame (18-9-1 overall, 7-2 Big East) will play a three-game series at Villanova (15-15, 4-5) this weekend in a matchup of red-hot squads. The Irish have won five straight games while the Wildcats have come out on top in their last seven contests.

“Villanova’s the hottest team in the Big East right now…. They’ve won [seven] in a row, all at home,” Schrage said.

Notre Dame swept conference foe Rutgers at home last weekend but will now hit the road for the next two weekends. The Irish take on the Wildcats before busing to West Virginia next weekend.

Schrage thinks his squad is well-prepared for the grueling stretch.

“Any time you go on the road – I don’t care where you’re playing – it’s going to be a challenge,” Schrage said. “But right now I like how our lineup sets up. I like how we’re swinging the bats and I like how we’re playing defense.”

A.J. Pollock has led a recent offensive tear for the Irish, garnering Big East player of the week honors last week before continuing his hot streak in Notre Dame’s mid-week games. Pollock went 6-for-7 with a home run, a triple and a double in games against Valparaiso and Manchester Tuesday and Wednesday. He raised his average to .409 by going 3-for-3 against Manchester.

Irish junior right-hander David Phelps will be on the mound Friday against the Wildcats. Senior Wade Korpi and sophomore Eric Maust will round out the weekend rotation for Notre Dame. The three Irish starters boast respective ERAs of 3.94, 3.70 and 2.70.

Schrage said the Irish will be focused on the three-game sets with Villanova and West Virginia but will also keep their eye on a series with St. John’s the following weekend.

“We’ve got six big games in a row before we get St. John’s at home,” Schrage said. “We’ve [told] the team we’ve got to win [the next two] series and hopefully get the showdown with St. John’s.”