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Baseball: Program legend to be honored

Chris Allen | Friday, April 29, 2011

The Irish will honor a Notre Dame baseball legend while trying to keep pace in the Big East standings as they host Seton Hall for a three-game weekend series at Frank Eck Stadium.

During Friday night’s opener, Notre Dame will honor the career of Alumni Association executive director Chuck Lennon, a former monogram winner in baseball. Lennon will retire in June from his post in the Alumni Association after 30 years. Irish coach Mik Aoki said the event, which will include post-game fireworks, represents a special opportunity for his team to honor a program legend.

“With regard to the tribute to Chuck Lennon, I think the honor is an absolute no-brainer,” Aoki said. “The guy, to me, is Mr. Notre Dame. He has been loyal to this baseball program in every way, shape or form in terms of just giving everything of himself. He embodies everything that Notre Dame aspires to be. He cares about other people, and cares about education. To honor a guy like that who’s given 50 years of service to this university is something important for us today given that he was a baseball player.”

On the field, Notre Dame (14-20-1, 5-9 Big East) will face a crucial test as it aims to make the field for the Big East tournament with a few wins over the Pirates (19-19, 6-9), who sit just above the Irish  in the conference standings. Seton Hall is currently eighth and Notre Dame 10th in the 12-team league. Only the top eight teams at season’s end qualify for the conference tournament in Clearwater, Fla. Aoki said the series, as well as upcoming series against bubble teams Rutgers, Louisville and South Florida will be crucial for postseason seeding.

“Clearly, our outcomes to this point in the season makes this a really important series,” he said. “This one, Rutgers, South Florida, Louisville, all big series for us. We still control our own destiny, which is something we’ve talked about. When it gets down to it, if we have it in control, that’s the way that you want it.”

Notre Dame’s struggling offense will have to rebound from a poor series against St. Johns, and it will have to do so against Seton Hall Friday starter Joe DiRocco. The right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 10 starts this season. Aoki said Seton Hall is constructed similarly to his squad, with strong pitching.

“It’s going to come down to a matter of who pitches a little better, who defends a little better, and who gets those timely hits a little bit better. Certainly with the way that DiRocco has pitched — and not only DiRocco, really their whole staff, they pitch really well.”

The series will start Friday at 6:35 p.m. and conclude at 11:05 a.m. Sunday.