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Notre Dame set to host No. 8 Florida State

| Friday, April 10, 2015

The Irish will have a tough task ahead of them this weekend when they host No. 8 Florida State in a three-game ACC weekend series.

Notre Dame looks to steal the series from the Seminoles (26-9, 11-4 ACC), who currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division of the ACC, behind Louisville. The Irish (21-10, 6-9) are second-to-last in the Atlantic Division, just in front of Boston College.

Despite taking its best shots at No. 6 Louisville — including an 18-inning marathon — and No. 16 Virginia in ACC series during the month of March, Notre Dame came out empty-handed. Irish head coach Mik Aoki said the Irish simply have to take advantage of the slight opportunities they are given by some incredible teams, including the Seminoles this weekend.

Irish freshman pitcher Brandon Bielak steps up to bat against Central Michigan in a n 8-3 win on March, 18 at Frank Eck Stadium.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish freshman pitcher Brandon Bielak steps up to bat against Central Michigan during Notre Dame’s 8-3 win March 18 at Frank Eck Stadium.

“I think a lot of it is a timely hit here and there, but I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Louisville or UVA when we had the opportunities to maybe convert a run, like in that 18-inning game, or maybe get a base hit that gets us the winning run,” Aoki said. “ … I thought we competed great against [Louisville], I thought we competed great against Virginia — we’ve just got to do the same thing and hope that the score at the end of the game has us with more runs than they do.”

The Seminoles don’t have the highest team batting average in college baseball. They don’t even crack the top 10. They do, however, know how to get on base and score and score in bunches, Aoki said.

“As usual, [the Seminoles] are an offensive juggernaut,” Aoki said. “The thing I think you have to do against Florida State is you have to limit them to one run or two runs in the innings they score because they are so good at turning one run into five runs.”

Florida State is tied for second in the nation in on-base percentage at .418, leads the country in walks and is fourth in runs with 265. Notre Dame pitchers will have to be at their best, Aoki said.

“They’re a team that is incredibly disciplined at the plate,” Aoki said. “You have to make pitches to get them out. They’re not really going to chase a lot outside of the strike zone. It’s not like they’re a high-prolific batting average team, but the hits that they get are balls that typically run themselves into the gap or find themselves over the fence. So we just have to limit it and we have to go out there and continue to compete they way we have all year long. I think slowly but surely we’re sort of returning. I like where we’re at, and I like our chances going into the weekend.”

Notre Dame’s starting rotation has been in flux in the past few weeks, though. Senior pitcher Scott Kerrigan was removed from his usual Friday start in the Pittsburgh series due to some soreness in his arm. Freshman hurler Brandon Bielak and junior pitcher Nick McCarty both moved up in the rotation while freshman Evy Ruibal took over the Sunday slot.

Aoki is again moving the lineup around for this weekend against Florida State, and the Sunday starter will likely be McCarty but is still to be determined.

“[Sophomore] Ryan [Smoyer] will go Friday,” Aoki said. “Brandon will go on Saturday, so we kind of keep him on his rest, which we felt like he’s got the 120 or whatever it was on Saturday, so we wanted to keep him on schedule. On Sunday, Nick is getting a little bit more soreness than he’s sort of accustomed to, so we’ll play that one by ear now.”

The Irish will look to take down the top-10 Seminoles this weekend at Frank Eck Stadium, with first pitch slated to be thrown at 6:05 p.m. Friday, 2:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday.

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