Irish set to face Spartans, looking for spark
Tobias Hoonhout | Tuesday, April 10, 2018
After starting strong against ACC rival and 11th-ranked Clemson this past weekend with a win to open the series, the Irish dropped a doubleheader to lose the series Sunday. Notre Dame will now look to spark up some momentum this coming week with two one-game matchups with Big Ten teams, starting with a trip to Michigan State on Tuesday.
The Irish (13-18, 5-10 ACC) and the Spartans (9-19, 3-5 Big Ten) have met 135 times previously over the history of both programs, with Michigan State currently leading the overall series 79-56. But the Irish have won three of the last four meetings, including a 2-1 victory last year at Frank Eck Stadium. Junior outfielder Matt Vierling was the star of the show, going 2-for-3 with a solo home run to tie the game in the second inning and scoring the eventual game-winning run in the sixth on a double steal. The win also marked Notre Dame’s fourth in a row and seventh out of its previous nine at the time.
This time around, however, the Irish have lost five of their last seven and are hoping to get back on track as the season nears the halfway point. Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki said Sunday that while his team has been on the short end of the stick recently, the Irish haven’t been playing bad baseball and are a few plays away from starting to be successful.
“Usually in every game, it’s been two or three plays that we need to create to be more positive for us,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s some secret sauce that we need to get a ton better at. I think we’ve been defending it pretty well; I think we’ve been swinging the bat fairly well; pitching has been a little up and down; but I think that if we can just put it all together, I feel pretty good about our chances in Big Ten week.”
One player set to be featured for the Irish is senior right-hander Charlie Vorsheck, who last appeared April 1 in relief duty during a 16-4 loss to Duke. Last season, Vorsheck emerged as one of Notre Dame’s best midweek starters, posting a 5-0 record with a 2.88 ERA and holding opponents to just a .206 batting average over the course of the season. While Vorsheck has started the season rather slow — only appearing in two games so far — Aoki said this coming week will be a great opportunity for him to start to replicate last year’s great form.
“He’s been ok, so I think we’ll probably start him one of these two games in the midweek,” Aoki said. “He just needs to extend out. He just needs to knock the rust off, and I don’t know that a higher leverage situation in the seventh inning is the way to knock the rust off.”
On the hitting side, the Irish will be hoping senior outfielder Jake Johnson can continue his recent tear at the plate. Johnson has hit .563 in his last four games, including a 5-for-8 performance over Sunday’s doubleheader to bump up his season average to .326.
Tuesday’s matchup between the Irish and the Spartans is set to begin at 3 p.m. at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field in East Lansing, Michigan.