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ND meets Huskies for first time

| Friday, April 25, 2014

Notre Dame will take a break from its conference schedule when it hosts Northeastern in a three-game series this weekend at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind.

The Irish (16-24, 4-17 ACC) and the Huskies (16-21, 3-8 CAA) bring similar records into Friday’s opener, but the game will be the first-ever meeting between the two squads.

However, Irish coach Mik Aoki has faced the Boston school 10 times in his career as a former Beantown rival when he coached at Boston College, earning eight victories in his four-year tenure with the Eagles.

“That’s a staff that I’ve known for a long time,” Aoki said. “Great coaching staff, great group of people. I know that I’ve always enjoyed competing against them. You never have to put up with a whole lot of goofy stuff, don’t have to worry about their kids acting the wrong way. They’re going to go out there and compete.”

This will also be the final time Notre Dame will have the chance to play against legendary Huskies coach Neil McPhee, currently in his 29th season as skipper.

“I know this is his final year, and he’s going to retire after this year, so for us to be able to play them in his last year, I’m excited about that,” Aoki said.

The Irish enter the series coming off their first weekday loss of the season, a 4-3 loss to Central Michigan on Wednesday. The matchup was tied at three headed into the eighth inning, but Irish senior right-hander Donnie Hissa surrendered a sacrifice fly to give the Chippewas the late lead and victory.

Barring any injuries or changes to the rotation, Notre Dame will look to rebound by starting senior right-hander Sean Fitzgerald for Friday’s opener, sophomore left-hander Michael Hearne on Saturday and junior right-hander Pat Connaughton on Sunday.

That trio will match up against three Northeastern right-handers junior Nick Berger on Friday, senior Chris Carmain on Saturday and undefeated freshman Dustin Hunt (3-0) on Sunday.

While Notre Dame has struggled to stay hot this season, never extending a win streak past three games, Aoki said he is not worried about his team’s motivation.

“I think we still have a decent amount to play for,” he said. “But we try to talk to the kids about going out there … just come to the park every day … take it pitch by pitch. I think overall we’ve been successful at doing that.”

The Irish will take on the Huskies for the first time in program history in a three-game series beginning Friday at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m.

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