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Baseball: Team prepares for games with Mississippi Valley State

Fran Tolan | Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Notre Dame faces off against Mississippi Valley State in a rare two-game midweek series tonight and Wednesday night. The Irish are looking to rebound after dropping two of three to St. John’s over the weekend.

Mississippi Valley State is 15-20 overall but sit in third place in the Eastern Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference with an 11-9 league record. Besides Notre Dame, the Delta Devils’ tough non-conference schedule includes LSU, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Alabama and Auburn.

Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 6:05 but the time is subject to change because Mississippi Valley State is traveling to Notre Dame by train. Irish coach Dave Schrage said the visiting team is riding the rails in order to reenact the lifestyle of players in the Negro Leagues decades ago.

“I know that they’re really looking forward to this trip,” Schrage said. “… It’ll be exciting for them to come up here so I’m sure they’ll be ready to play.”

As for his own team, Schrage said Notre Dame (28-12-1 overall, 13-5 Big East) is in the exact position it had hoped to be when the season began.

“We played the first [41] games of the season to be in the spot we’re in,” Schrage said. “Now every game we play is big because of what our record is.”

The Irish will rely on a pair of freshman starting pitchers against Mississippi Valley State. Right-hander Brian Dupra will start the first tilt of the non-conference series before fellow righty Ryan Sharpley takes the mound in the second game.

Eight of the nine batters in Notre Dame’s lineup boast averages above .300 and another, Billy Boockford, sits at .299. But Schrage said the team also needs its pitching staff to come through against the Delta Devils.

“We have gotta go out and pitch,” Schrage said. “We’ll get our freshmen out there and get them some innings.”

The Irish have not played Mississippi Valley State in the past several seasons and are not familiar with this year’s Delta Devils. But the Irish have won 20 of their last 25 games and senior co-captain Ross Brezovsky said the team is just eager to take the field again.

“I don’t know much about them at all. This is the first year we’ve played them since I’ve been here. I can’t really tell you anything. We gotta just go out and play well,” Brezovsky said.