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ND tangles with Seminoles in three-game series

| Friday, April 4, 2014

The ACC has not been kind to Notre Dame.

Irish senior pitcher Pat Connaughton releases a pitch during Notre Dame's 12-2 win over Connecticut on April 26, 2013.Oe Kenesey | The Observer
Irish senior pitcher Pat Connaughton releases a pitch during Notre Dame’s 12-2 win over Connecticut on April 26, 2013.
So far, the Irish (10-17, 1-11 ACC) have gotten the win in just one of their 12 conference games, earning their first ACC victory against Virginia Tech 2-1 on March 21. The competition will not get any easier this weekend when Notre Dame travels down to Tallahassee, Fla., to take on No. 3 Florida State (23-5, 9-2) in a three-game weekend series.

“We’re going up against a really, really good team and a team that plays even that much better at home,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “There’s a huge comfort level that those guys have at home. [There’s] going to be … somewhere in the neighborhood of six to eight thousand people in those stands. It should be a good experience for us.”

The Seminoles have been sending junior right-hander Luke Weaver (5-2) to the mound on Fridays. The righty, who sports a 2.53 ERA in seven starts, was named the ACC pitcher of the week on Monday after tossing a one-hit shutout against Boston College on March 28. Weaver will face Irish senior right-hander Sean Fitzgerald in the series opener Friday evening.

“You know, I think that when Fitz is pitching well, he gives us a chance to win against anybody, to be honest with you,” Aoki said. “It’s probably going to be a matter of are we going to be able to take advantage of the limited scoring opportunities that we’re going to have when you go up against a kid who’s as good as Weaver is?”

But the Seminoles’ biggest star will be coming out of the bullpen. Freshman Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston has allowed one run in nine appearances as Florida State’s closer. He has also given up just seven hits in 14 innings of work.

“I haven’t really seen him. We know he’s got a big arm,” Aoki said. “[He’s] clearly a kid who is not very shy about the spotlight, the way that he had to be in it in different ways all year long. It will be interesting to see how a Heisman Trophy winner pitches against us.”

Aoki said sophomore left-hander Michael Hearne and junior righty Pat Connaughton will start the last two games of the series, although the coaches have not made the final decision on the order they will start in.

No matter the order of the rotation, Aoki said the Irish pitching staff has to focus on staying in control, both of the strike zone and the game as a whole.

“In my experience coaching against the team, the big thing is you have to limit their innings, particularly at home,” Aoki said. “In the blink of an eye, you’ve got six runs up there. Typically offensively they’re really disciplined; they don’t go hunting. We need to make sure we’re in the strike-zone. And then just limit it, just limit their innings.

“It’s no different in terms of the recipe for beating anyone else. These guys are just really stinking efficient.”

The Irish will play a three-game set against Florida State at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. The games are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon Sunday.

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