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Baseball: Squad to host Cincinnati in series

Vicky Jacobsen | Friday, April 13, 2012

The Irish will attempt to halt a five-game losing streak when they host a three-game conference series against Cincinnati this weekend.

Irish coach Mik Aoki said his team may be feeling the pressure to break out of the slump.

“I think they lack a little bit of the confidence that they had early on, and so anything that goes a little bit against us brings back the insecurity,” Aoki said. “The guys are a little frustrated.”

Aoki said he’s been telling the Irish (17-15, 4-5 Big East) to play the games one pitch at a time.

“All I’ve been telling them is that let’s try not to focus on what the outcome is,” Aoki said. “Let’s just focus on trying to be as competitive as we can on every single pitch and try to win the pitch, and if we win more pitches then we lose then more often than not it will give us the opportunity to have the outcome that we want.”

Notre Dame’s first two losses to Seton Hall last weekend came in extra innings, and four of the last five defeats were by a total of five runs. Aoki said the demoralizing effects of these close losses are more worrisome than any of Notre Dame’s on-field miscues.

“A couple of [the losses], especially in those Seton Hall games, we sort of heartbreak types of deals,” Aoki said. “I really think it sort of shook the team’s confidence a little, so if they can get over and work through that I think we’ll be fine.”

Aoki hopes the returns of sophomore first baseman Trey Mancini and junior outfielder Charlie Markson will spark the team. Mancini missed this week’s games against Michigan State and Western Michigan with an injury, while Markson has been sick and hasn’t played since Saturday’s loss at Seton Hall.

The pitching rotation will also see a bit of a shakeup as freshman right-hander Pat Connaughton is scheduled to start Sunday’s rubber match in the second weekend start of his college career. Senior right-hander Will Hudgins will start Friday’s game, and sophomore right-hander Sean Fitzgerald will get the ball for Saturday’s matinee.

Cincinnati (11-21, 1-8 Big East) comes into the weekend with a five-game losing streak of their own, their third such stretch this season. Although the Bearcats haven’t had much success in conference play so far this season, Aoki said their lineup could still be a challenge for the Irish pitching staff.

“They’ve got a couple of guys in their lineup that are able to change the game with a swing of the bat; they’ve got a little bit of power in that lineup,” Aoki said. “They’ve been scuffling a little bit, too, so I really think that if we just do a good job of just worrying about ourselves I think we’ll be fine. They’ve had some up and down results but they’re a quality team.”

Aoki said the key to beating the Bearcats lies in keeping the number of Cincinnati base-runners to a minimum.

“I’m sure that were going to give up a couple RBIs to some of them over the course of the weekend, but if we do hopefully they’re of the solo-shot variety, not a multiple-run home run,” Aoki said. “I think our pitchers will do a good job of working and making sure that if they do hit a home run or something, that we haven’t helped generate any of their offense with walks or errors.”

Hudgins will throw out the first pitch against the Bearcats at 5:35 p.m. Friday at Frank Eck Stadium. Saturday’s game will start at 2:05 p.m., and the series finale will begin Sunday at 1:05 p.m.


Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]