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Baseball: Irish fall three times in S.C.

Chris Masoud | Monday, March 7, 2011

Although only 10 games into the season, a common theme has emerged in each of Notre Dame’s six losses — quality starting pitching and a cold offense. The Irish dropped three of four games at the Winthrop Invitational this weekend despite recording three additional quality starts to bring their season total to nine.

After losing a three-game series to Seattle University last weekend two games to one, the Irish have lost five of their last seven games.

“Our hitting struggled,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “We were better than we were certainly against Seattle, but unfortunately not enough to win two or three or four of those games. I thought we pitched well. The defense was solid — not great, not where we want it to be, but solid.”

Brilliant in a 5-2 loss to Manhattan (2-5) Friday, senior co-captain Brian Dupra turned in another dominant performance from the hill. The right-hander allowed two earned runs in eight innings of work, striking out 10 while issuing just one walk.

Dupra (1-1) lowered his ERA to 1.71, and has totaled 26 strikeouts to go along with one walk in 21 innings pitched.

“Brian [has] been great all year,” Aoki said. “I think he has gone out there and gotten what your No. 1 is supposed to do. It’s a matchup against the other team’s best pitcher — to match him pitch for pitch — and, by and large, he has absolutely done that.”

Seniors Cole Johnson (1-2) and Todd Miller (1-1) round out Notre Dame’s veteran rotation, and each gave Notre Dame (4-6) a chance to win over the weekend.

Johnson yielded three runs and struck out five in seven innings, as Notre Dame fell to Winthrop (5-5) by the score of 4-2 in the nightcap of a doubleheader. Miller received the no-decision in a 5-4 win over Manhattan on Saturday, despite tossing 7 2/3 innings and allowing only three earned runs. Junior closer Will Hudgins (1-0) picked up his first win of the season after tossing a scoreless frame in the bottom of the 10th inning.

“I think all three of those guys [Dupra, Johnson and Miller] have pitched exceptionally well,” Aoki said. “Unfortunately their win-loss record isn’t what it should be, but they’ve kept us in games and I think they’ve done a really good job.”

While the offense tends to lag the pitching early in the season, Aoki said he believes his players need to continue putting in time in practice in order to see better results on the field.

After falling to Winthrop 7-2 in the final game of the series on Saturday, the Irish have another week to develop the offense before taking the field against Alabama-Birmingham (8-3) on Saturday.

“We have to get fundamentally better,” Aoki said. “With every game so far, the quality of our at-bats has been better, but I think we are very much a work-in-progress. I think the kids do a good job. I don’t that we’re going to be at .300 on the year, but I think we could be a .270 or .280 team.”