ND aims to bounce back by hosting hot Spartans
Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, April 28, 2015
After losing its first weekend series in nearly a month, Notre Dame will look to rebound against Michigan State at Frank Eck Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Irish (28-15, 12-12 ACC) dropped two of their three games to Wake Forest on the weekend, losing 5-4 in 11 innings Sunday. Prior to the weekend, the Irish had not lost a conference series since being swept by Virginia on March 28-29.
Irish head coach Mik Aoki said the team has done a good job of putting the weekend’s results behind itself.
“I think by the time we were rolling back into town, the guys were fine, just looking forward to the upcoming week and looking forward to a good challenge with Michigan State [on Tuesday],” he said.
The Spartans (25-17, 9-6 Big Ten) will enter the nonconference matchup having won nine of their last 11 games. Over the weekend, Michigan State won two of three games against an Indiana team that defeated the Irish, 6-5, on April 21.
Michigan State has also experienced success against Notre Dame recently, as the Spartans have won nine of the last 10 games between the teams. The Irish, however, emerged with a 7-3 victory in the last meeting, which occurred in April 2013.
“Michigan State is always good, well-coached, they’ve got some athletic kids,” Aoki said. “They seem to also have pretty good karma going against Notre Dame over the years, so we’ll just have to go out there and do a good job competing.”
Notre Dame will send sophomore right-hander Ryan Smoyer to the mound against a Spartans lineup that ranks third in the Big Ten with a team average of .286. Michigan State has four players — junior outfielder Cam Gibson, senior first baseman Ryan Krill, redshirt senior infielder Mark Weist and senior outfielder Anthony Cheky — with batting averages currently above .300.
Smoyer, meanwhile, has a 6-0 record and 2.14 ERA in 12 appearances, seven of them starts. Smoyer can succeed against the Spartans lineup if he pitches to his strengths, Aoki said.
“For Ryan to be successful, he’s got to do a good job commanding his fastball and be able to use one of his off-speed pitches to kind of get them off the fastball a little bit,” Aoki said. “We sort of rely on pitching and defense and counting on balls being put into play in the manner in which we want them to be put into play.”
Notre Dame and Michigan State find themselves closely ranked in terms of their RPIs. Michigan State has the No. 31 RPI nationally, up from No. 37 last week, while the Irish possess the No. 38 RPI in the nation, down from No. 33 last week. The Irish have only lost two midweek games all season, falling at home to Toledo on April 15 in addition to their defeat against the Hoosiers in Indianapolis one week ago.
Despite Michigan State’s ranking, the Irish will approach the game in the same manner they would for any other midweek opponent, according to Aoki.
“Baseball’s one of those sports where you never know,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing Chicago State or a Mid-American [Conference] school or this kind of school or an ACC school. So much is dependent on what you get out of your pitching and then timely hitting.”
Notre Dame and Michigan State are scheduled for the first pitch to be thrown at 7:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium.