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Baseball: Losing streak looms over ND

Mary Green | Tuesday, April 16, 2013

As baseball great Yogi Berra would say, it’s déjà vu all over again for No. 20 Notre Dame, who will head to Ann Arbor, Mich., to face Michigan for the second time in a week. Last Tuesday, the Irish (19-14, 4-8 Big East) fell 4-1 to the Wolverines (20-14, 7-2 Big Ten), which marked their second consecutive loss. Notre Dame’s losing streak has since increased to five games, as the Irish have not won since April 6.

 After dropping the game to Michigan and one to Villanova, Pittsburgh swept the Irish in a three-game series this weekend. Notre Dame managed only eight hits combined in the first two games of the series. But with the exception of their last game, the Irish have lost each contest by four runs or fewer. In Friday’s loss to the Panthers, Notre Dame players made contact in 17 of 32 at-bats but only had three hits.

Irish coach Mik Aoki said he believes the losing streak is just a result of bad luck and unfortunate circumstances that are common in baseball.

“Some of these losses, it’s just the cyclical nature of baseball, you know,” he said. “I told [the team] to just keep doing what they’re doing and keep competing and keep being really positive and keep supporting one another, and, like I said, hopefully some of these balls that we’re hitting well will find a little green grass to roll around on.”

Aoki said there is nothing in particular that his players need to tweak to get a win; instead, keeping a “glass-half-full” mentality might be the best solution.

“I don’t know that I would say to our team, ‘Hey, let’s change this or let’s change that,'” he said. “Maybe just the only thing I would do is encourage it, and I have encouraged our guys just to stay as positive as they can throughout a pretty frustrating turn.”

Notre Dame’s chance to turn its luck around starts today, when freshman left-handed pitcher Zak Kutsulis leaves his usual position in right field to make his first start on the mound. He posted a 1.08 ERA in 10 relief appearances for the Irish. 

Kutsulis will have to counter a strong Wolverines batting order that features five players with .300-plus averages. Included in that quintet is first-year shortstop Travis Maezes, named Big Ten Freshman of the Week yesterday after hitting .467 in Michigan’s last four games.

Aoki said he hopes the Irish will put the last meeting with Michigan behind them and end up with a different result on a different day.

“I think it’s a new game, new circumstances,” he said.

The first pitch of the matchup between the Irish and Wolverines will come at 4:05 p.m. from Ray Fisher Stadium in Ann Arbor.