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Baseball: Irish host cold Spartan lineup

Bill Brink | Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Notre Dame has a chance to recover from two straight losses to Pittsburgh over the weekend when it faces Michigan State, who lost three straight to Illinois, today at 6:05 p.m. at Eck Stadium.

The Irish (15-10, 2-4 Big East) took the first game of the three-game series behind sophomore Cole Johnson’s two earned-run complete game Friday. Notre Dame gave up 29 runs in the next two games to the Panthers’ bats.

Michigan State (7-17, 0-3 Big Ten) has only scored five runs in its last three games and none in its last game, a 3-0 loss to the Illini in which the Spartans only managed four hits. They do have some dangerous hitters, though. Junior Eli Boiki has a .349 average and five home runs, leading the team, and a .442 on-base percentage. He has also stolen seven bases in nine attempts.

Junior Chris Roberts, hitting .333, also provides a threat for the Spartans.

The team as a whole, however, hits only .248, which is perfect for a Notre Dame pitching staff that has struggled of late. The staff has an ERA of 5.11 and has walked 106 batters this season. Irish pitchers gave up 37 hits to Pittsburgh this weekend, 30 of them in the final two games.

Notre Dame’s bats, on the other hand, are doing just fine. Over the past 15 games, junior center fielder A.J. Pollock has batted .448. Last week, he batted .500, had a slugging percentage of .854 and an on-base percentage of .560.

Sophomore third baseman Greg Sherry has been hot recently as well. Sherry hit .500 (7-14) over the weekend against Pittsburgh.

The Irish also hit four home runs Sunday against Pittsburgh, a season high. Junior Ryne Intlekofer had three hits, including his first career home run. Sophomore catcher Cameron McConnell also hit his first homer.

Those hits didn’t always come in timely situations. Notre Dame stranded 29 base runners against the Panthers, 12 in the second game and 11 in the third game of the series.

Fortunately for the Irish, Spartan pitching has not been fantastic either. Michigan State has a 5.55 team ERA and has walked 102 batters this season. The Spartans allowed 10 runs on 13 hits to Illinois Friday and walked six batters Saturday. The Spartan staff pitched well Sunday against the Fighting Illini but got no offensive support.

First pitch today is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Notre Dame will host another non-conference opponent, Toledo, on Wednesday before facing Villanova at home in a Big East series this weekend.