Irish prepare for series against No. 11 Clemson
Elizabeth Greason | Thursday, April 5, 2018
Coming off a big 18-4 win over Chicago State at home Tuesday, the Irish were looking forward to an exhibition Wednesday against the South Bend Cubs that would give a number of fresh faces a chance to showcase their skills. However, an April snowstorm forced the game to be cancelled, so next up for Notre Dame will be hosting No. 11 Clemson at Frank Eck Stadium this weekend.
The Tigers (23-6, 8-4 ACC) are riding a five-game winning streak coming into the series and have won each of their last five games by five or more runs. Clemson is led offensively by junior first baseman Seth Beer, who sits atop the starters’ rankings in batting average, touting a .286 mark, and home runs with 10. Senior catcher Chris Williams follows closely behind in both categories, posting a .278 batting average and seven home runs. Williams also leads the team in RBIs with 30.
The Tigers will also bring with them sophomore pitcher Jacob Hennessey, whose 1.94 ERA is among the best in the nation, ranking 74th, with over 41 innings pitched and only nine runs given up.
Irish head coach Mik Aoki said after the win over the Cougars (5-20, 0-6 Western) that he feels the Irish should be able to compete with the Tigers, despite the squad’s high ranking.
“It’s about us trying to be the very best version of Notre Dame that we can possibly be. I think that when we do that, we can play with anybody in the country,” Aoki said Tuesday. “Obviously, it presents a great challenge, but one that I’m really looking forward to. I want to see our team continue to grow and develop and get a little bit better from the game.”
Some of that growth took place Tuesday for the Irish (12-16, 4-8 ACC), whose bats came alive against Chicago State, scoring 18 runs. Senior left fielder Alex Kerschner led the way for Notre Dame, as he batted in five runs on three hits, while junior second baseman Nick Podkul tallied three RBIs.
Aoki added that, while the Irish have struggled against ACC competition so far this season, getting swept by Duke in Durham, North Carolina, over the weekend, he feels the team has what it takes to take down any team — the Tigers included — if it plays within itself. He said he thinks it has proven itself on multiple occasions already this year, it simply needs to find a more consistent groove.
“I think for me the biggest area of improvement is just being able to play the way that we do the majority of the time. For each of our players to be consistent to who and what they are,” Aoki said. “And I think that at times, we’ve tried to come out of ourselves to make the hero pitch or the hero play and we don’t need to be any better than what we are. We just need to be the best Notre Dame that we can possibly be, and I think that when we do that, we’re pretty darn good.
“I think that we’ve proven it in situations like winning a game down in Florida State — they’ve only dropped two the entire year, one of them was to us at home — winning a series at LSU, those types of things. It’s there. We just have to show up consistently and worry about being the best us that we can be and not let the game situation create something that we’re not.”
The Irish will host the Tigers for a three-game series this weekend, beginning Friday at Frank Eck Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.