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Bats seek to improve divisional standing

| Friday, April 24, 2015

There’s no catching Louisville at this point for the Atlantic Division crown, even with three conference series left, but the Irish will head to Wake Forest this weekend looking to move up a couple of spots in the standings.

Notre Dame (27-13, 11-10 ACC) currently sits in fourth place in the division, right behind Clemson (11-9) and Florida State (14-7). The Irish, however, are followed closely by North Carolina State (9-11), Boston College (9-11) and Wake Forest (23-19, 9-12), who sits in last place in the Atlantic. One weekend could change the whole bottom half of the division, Irish head coach Mik Aoki said.

“We’re all jammed in there,” Aoki said. “Everybody could get on a little bit of a hot streak and get going on this thing. We’ve just got to keep grinding along, being the best we can be, and at the end of the year trust that that’s going to put us where we want to be.”

Senior right-hander Scott Kerrigan moves towards home during Notre Dame’s loss 4-2 to North Carolina State on Sunday.Michael Yu | The Observer
Senior right-hander Scott Kerrigan moves towards home during Notre Dame’s loss 4-2 to North Carolina State on Sunday at Frank Eck Stadium.

Despite being in last place, the Demon Deacons swing the bat well, Aoki said, and Wake Forest Baseball Park favors their home run hitters. Sophomore infielder Will Craig leads the Deacons with a .401 batting average and 12 home runs while fellow sophomore infielder Nate Mondou is not far behind, with a .363 average and nine home runs.

“They swing the bat, they’re very offensive,” Aoki said. “ … They play well in their ballpark; it suits their team. It’s a hitter-friendly park, so our pitching staff will have to go out there and do a good job competing against it, and maybe we can take advantage of a nice hitting park at the same time.”

The Demon Deacons offense is deep as well: six Demon Deacon batters with more than 100 at bats have an average above .300. The team’s overall average is .303. The Deacons are 14-8 at home, compared to a 7-11 mark on the road.

Although a few minor injuries have mixed up the Irish pitching staff, it has been for the most part lights out in its past two ACC series against Florida State and North Carolina State, suffering just a single loss and giving up only 10 runs over the last six conference games.

The pitching lineup this weekend will have sophomore right-hander Ryan Smoyer going Friday, freshman right-hander Brandon Bielak on Saturday and most likely junior right-hander Nick McCarty on Sunday, Aoki said. Smoyer is 6-0 on the season with a 2.11 ERA, Bielak is 4-1 with a 3.34 ERA, and McCarty has a 5-3 record with a 2.78 ERA.

Senior outfielder Robert Youngdahl offers at a pitch Sunday  during Notre Dame’s doubleheader against North Carolina State.Michael Yu | The Observer
Senior outfielder Robert Youngdahl offers at a pitch Sunday during Notre Dame’s doubleheader against North Carolina State.

Although the ACC standings are cramped and an important weekend is coming up for his team, Aoki said nothing changes in Notre Dame’s game plan.

“Same mindset,” Aoki said. “We’ve got to play each game pitch by pitch and do the very best we can and at the end of the day we’ll look up and hopefully we’ve got more runs on the scoreboard than they do.”

First pitch is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Wake Forest Baseball Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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