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Baseball: Martin leads the way in opening three wins

Douglas Farmer | Monday, February 22, 2010

Notre Dame last won its first three games of the season in 2004. This weekend the Irish did just that, by a combined score of 39-10.

Notre Dame topped Mississippi Valley State three times in three days, starting Friday, by scores of 12-4, 8-3 and 19-3, respectively. The success on the trip to Mississippi started with the defense and the pitching, Irish coach Dave Schrage said.

“What was nice about [the weekend] is we were able to throw a lot of guys,” Schrage said. “That is always important early on. … The strength of our club is the depth of our pitching staff.”

While the pitching was stalwart in all three games, Notre Dame’s strength lay in its offensive firepower. Senior first baseman Casey Martin notched seven RBIs on the weekend, with a home run in each of the first two games. Martin opened his season with a 4-for-5 performance Friday, and fellow seniors Ryne Intlekofer and left fielder Ryan Connolly also sent balls over the fence.

“Casey had a great weekend for us,” Schrage said. “But when you have a veteran lineup, offensively, you usually come out swinging the bats pretty well early on because that is all you do in practice, hit in the cage.”

Ironically, the Irish did not use a single home run in the biggest rout of the weekend, the 19-3 onslaught Sunday. Martin had four RBIs off of two hits, and freshman outfielder Charlie Markson knocked in three more runs, also off of two hits.

“The biggest thing was we executed a lot of our game plan as far as moving runners, doing hit-and-runs, and hitting fly balls with guys on third, doing a really nice job in situations,” Schrage said of Sunday’s offensive outburst.

After barely missing the NCAA Tournament last season, winning these first three games was crucial to the Irish, but Schrage said the team never focuses on more than one game.

“[Winning the first three] is a lot as far as momentum for us,” he said. “The biggest thing we’ve been focused on is taking one game each day. I know it is a cliché, but we’ve talked about it with our guys. … They took each day separately, and there wasn’t any carryover.”

Schrage said Notre Dame hopes that some of the momentum from this weekend will carry over for its upcoming games in Florida against Illinois and Ohio State.

“It was real important for us to get off to a good start,” Schrage said. “Next weekend we have a big challenge going up against Ohio State, a team that is top-20.”