Notre Dame, Michigan to meet in midweek game
Zach Klonsinski | Tuesday, April 5, 2016
After winning its first home conference series of the year last weekend against Wake Forest, Notre Dame returns to the Frank Eck Stadium turf Tuesday night against institutional rival No. 25 Michigan.
The Irish (15-11, 6-6 ACC) enter the mid-week contest with some momentum after clinching the series against the Demon Deacons (18-12, 5-7 ACC) with a victory in the second game of a doubleheader Sunday. The team got on a roll starting with the final inning in the first game of the day.
Notre Dame entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 15-7 but clawed all the way back to put the tying run on base before ultimately falling 15-13. The Irish picked up right where they left off, though, en route to a 10-2 victory in the series’ rubber match.
“[The ninth inning charge] was good,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said, following Sunday’s action. “I think it shows a little resiliency that these guys had, and maybe that carried into the next game — I’m not 100 percent sure — but certainly it was a good inning for us; just, unfortunately, a better inning for them.”
Aoki said the team needs to parlay that momentum into a strong showing this week, as the Wolverines (20-5, 3-0 Big Ten) represent a strong resume boost for the NCAA tournament. The Irish also have a game against Valparaiso scheduled for Wednesday night and a three-game ACC series with No. 3 Miami over the weekend.
Aoki said the opponents on the field aren’t even the only challenges for his team this week: in addition to trying to get rested and rehydrated after a long doubleheader Sunday, off-the-field duties also beckon.
“Unfortunately, I think Mendoza has a battery of tests for the finance majors, so that’s not cooperating with it, but these guys are kind of used to it,” Aoki said. “They understand what the deal is with that there, and so we try to get ourselves as rested as we can be and get back out there and play at a high level.”
Despite the jam-packed week, however, Aoki said he hasn’t considered resting anyone or modifying the lineup in any way.
“I think the thing is we’re playing hopefully to play our way into an NCAA berth,” Aoki said. “So you play the lineup that you think going to give you the best opportunity to win. Most of your core guys, the infielders, you know who those guys are. We’ve obviously bounced around a little bit in the outfield with the exception of [freshman outfielder Matt] Vierling as a steady presence out there, but we try to go and win.
“Every one of these games counts towards NCAA stuff, and Michigan has gotten off to a great start. They’re a good team, [with] obviously kind of that traditional football rivalry — I’m not sure if that exists to that extent in baseball, but I think any time that you can beat Michigan, that’s probably a notch in your belt so to speak.”
Michael Hearne will get the start against the Wolverines on Tuesday night. It will be the senior right hander’s sixth start and seventh appearance. Hearne is currently 2-0 on the season with a 3.67 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 27 innings of work.
His last start came last Wednesday during Notre Dame’s 6-3 win over visiting Oregon. Hearne allowed three runs over four innings of work while striking out two on his way to a no decision.
Notre Dame and Michigan last met April 9, 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when the Irish rode a 4-for-5, 3 RBI day at the plate from current senior first baseman Zak Kutsulis to a 9-1 road victory.
This year’s iteration of the rivalry is slated to begin Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium.