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Baseball: Squad looks to bounce back

Michael Bryan | Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The struggling Irish will look for their first home win of the season and prepare for conference play today, hosting Ball State and Illinois-Chicago this week before traveling to South Florida for a Big East series this weekend.

Notre Dame will host the Cardinals with first pitch at 5:05 p.m. Tuesday after being swept by Michigan State in its home-opening series last weekend. The Irish have dropped nine of their last 12 games, including four straight.

Junior Ryan Sharpley will makes his first start since April 2008 for the Irish after missing the entire 2009 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Sharpley’s career record as a starter is 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA.

“Baseball is a game of a lot of ups and downs,” senior pitcher Eric Maust said. “Our focus for each day this upcoming week is to key in on the things that we can control.”

The Cardinals have a 6-13 record on the season but have faced a tough schedule that includes six losses to ranked opponents. Ball State is coming off a weekend series at Louisville that saw the team drop two of three games.

The Cardinals will start right-hander Brad Piatt, who has struggled early in the season. Piatt has a 0-2 record and 7.98 ERA in 2010 but will face a Notre Dame team that has struggled to produce runs lately.

The Irish were shut out twice in the process of being swept by the Spartans last weekend and have averaged just 1.5 runs per game in their current four-game losing streak.

“One thing that collectively as a team we’ve decided to focus on is the type of focused work that we put in,” Maust said. “We don’t feel like we were putting in poor quality hours before, but the idea is more or less that we are working up against some adversity right now and the thing to not do is shrug your shoulders and give in.”

After facing the Cardinals the Irish will face another non-conference opponent in Illinois-Chicago Wednesday. Notre Dame has won 11 of its last 13 games against the Flames.

The Irish will then begin Big East play this weekend at South Florida. Notre Dame finished fifth in the league in 2009 with a 15-12 conference record.

First pitch today  is scheduled for 5:05 p.m at Eck Stadium.