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Notre Dame bounces back after early season struggles

| Friday, May 19, 2017

Coming into the season, the Irish were not ranked in the top 25, but there were still high hopes for a squad with a lot of promise. As the season went on, however, things did not gone as planned.

After a slow start, the Irish currently sit at 26-27 on the year with 10-17 conference record, good enough for just 10th place in the ACC. As the close-to-.500 record might indicate, Notre Dame has seen itself in a number of tight contests right from the very start of the season.

“Our expectations were pretty high. I feel like we have some good quality players, but I think the thing that derailed us a little bit was how poorly we started the season,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said. “I think at a point we were 1-8, and that was really unexpected for us […] When we sat at 1-8, I truly felt like we could have been 8-1, and if we were 8-1 in that stretch, we’re probably sitting here thinking about what regional we’re going to be heading towards. Outside of those first three weeks, I feel like we’ve played well and played to who I think we can be.”

To even fight back to around .500 on the season has been an uphill battle after a slow start to the season. The team struggled to pick up any wins over the course of the first few weekends which included trips to San Antonio, San Diego and Cary, North Carolina, for various tournaments. Since then, the team has seen some improvement, especially at home where the team holds a 17-9 record. Aoki credits his team for their mental toughness after the tough start to the season.

“I think a lot of it was that we got back to not putting so much pressure on ourselves and not pressing so hard,” Aoki said. “Often times, when you press like that, you get one bad outcome like a walk, and it turns into two or three walks. I think that was sort of our ‘modus operandi’ early in the year where I think we’ve now been able to kind of overlook some of those negative plays, whether it be an error or a walk or a home run, and just continue to compete and play.”

As the season progresses, the team still has work to do if it hopes to land a spot in the ACC tournament. While Notre Dame won two of three games in a home series against Austin Peay, before a 10-2 win over Western Michigan, the Irish head out to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, for a final series with Boston College that may determine who squeaks into the tournament and who doesn’t. Aoki has confidence that his team can get the job done, but regardless of how things shake out, he’s still proud of the team’s resiliency this season.

“I’m proud of the way they’ve bounced back. Especially in this day and age, a lot of these young kids after starting 1-8 could have just packed their lunch box and gone home, but they didn’t,” Aoki said. “They continued to work really hard, they’re a really likable group, and they’re great kids and ambassadors of our university. I’m proud of them, and obviously we’d like to get on the plus side of .500 and play some postseason baseball, but we’ll see how it goes. Overall, it’s been a great group to work with.”

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