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Baseball: Revitalized offense propels ND into conference matchup

Jared Jedick | Friday, April 9, 2010

After the offense has started to come alive by averaging more than 10 runs per game in the past four outings, the Irish look to carry some of that offensive momentum into their weekend series with Rutgers at Frank Eck Stadium.

“It will be good for us. We haven’t had a series at home yet, and I think our guys feel that we have to start this weekend winning some series,” Irish coach Dave Schrage said. 

Notre Dame (10-17, 1-5 Big East) will face Rutgers (15-12, 5-1 Big East) three times over the weekend at 5:05 p.m. Friday, 1:05 p.m. Saturday, and 12:05 p.m. Sunday. The weekend is critical for the Irish to gain some conference wins and climb out of a tie for last place with Seton Hall (11-14, 1-5 Big East) in the Big East.

The Irish are getting offensive help from some familiar veteran faces in senior outfielder David Mills (.371, 18 RBIs), senior outfielder/ infielder Ryan Connolly (.367, 18 RBIs, 5 HR), and senior first baseman Casey Martin (.358, 17 RBIs, 3 HR), but the pleasant surprise lately has come from freshman infielder Frank Desico.

“I think we have made a couple adjustments in our lineup,” Schrage said. “These are guys that we thought would do well and they got off to slow starts, and they are good hitters and they are just starting to pick it up.”

Desico is batting .347 with 17 runs, a home run and 11 RBIs. In the 13-6 victory over Oakland on Tuesday, Desico hit his first career home run, as well as going 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.

“Frank Desico, who is just a freshman, is starting to get some games under his belt and he is improving,” Schrage said.

Despite the renewed vigor from the offense over the past four games, Notre Dame was only able to take two out of the four games, and only one out of three in the conference.
Leading the Irish pitching attack are sophomore left-hander Steve Sabatino (2-3, 5.05 ERA) and junior right-hander Brian Dupra (2-2, 5.01 ERA).

“Good pitching should beat good hitting, so hopefully our pitching will be better than theirpitching,” Schrage said.

Notre Dame is in for a tough matchup against Rutgers, which is currently in a tie for first place in the Big East with Louisville (24-4, 5-1 Big East) and South Florida (13-16, 5-1 Big East).

Rutgers is led offensively by freshman infielder Steve Nyisztor, who paces the team with a .375 batting average while adding 21 RBIs.

Also playing strong offensively for the Scarlet Knights are Pat Biserta (.339, 30 RBI, 10 HR), Brandon Boykin (.333, 17 RBI, 4 HR) and Ryan Kapp (.327, 19 RBI, 3 HR). This powerful offensive Rutgers squad has put up 196 runs so far this season in 27 games to Notre Dame’s 162 runs.

“Our biggest thing is that we need to score some runs against them,” Schrage said. “That is the biggest thing because their Achilles’ heel is their starting pitching.”

Leading the pitching attack for Rutgers is workhorse senior right-hander Casey Gaynor. Gaynor boasts a 3-3 record with a 5.70 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched.

Also playing well for the Scarlet Knights is another freshman making a positive contribution in left-hander Dan O’Niell (1-0, 5.90 ERA, 29.0 IP).

First pitch is at 5:05 p.m. Friday at Frank Eck Stadium.