Irish set to host Valparaiso in mid-week matchup
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Notre Dame will look to keep their strong play rolling at home when Valparaiso makes the short trip into town for a matchup at Frank Eck Stadium today. For the Irish, this will mark their fourth contest in a string of eleven straight home games over the next three weeks, and they will look to capitalize on the home-field advantage, just as they did this past weekend against Virginia Tech.
The Irish (17-23, 8-13 ACC) are entering Tuesday’s matchup against the Crusaders (14-20, 4-5 Horizon) after winning the final two games of a three-game series against the Hokies (17-23, 7-14). The Irish struggled early in the initial matchup, losing 9-1. But the team was able to bounce back for close wins on both Saturday and Sunday to secure the series win and improve their standing in the conference with the postseason tournament growing ever closer. On Saturday with a huge crowd present, the matchup did not disappoint, as the Irish walked off in 12 innings with the 8-7 win. Leading the way for the Irish was graduate student starter Scott Tully, who last 8 1/3 innings on the day. After having given up just two runs over the first eight innings, the southpaw did eventually give up three with one out in the ninth inning, erasing the 5-2 lead the Notre Dame lead as the Hokies forced the game into extra innings. Despite falling behind 7-5 in the top of the 12th, the Irish were able to end the day on a high note behind a spectacular comeback in the bottom of the inning, capped off with a walk-off single to left center by junior right fielder Eric Gilgenbach to close the game.
Sunday saw Notre Dame snag their third series win of the season with a 6-5 victory. Down 3-2 in the fifth inning, the Irish got back-to-back solo home runs from junior second baseman Nick Podkul and junior third baseman Matt Vierling to secure the lead. Freshman Spencer Myers would add a third run on the inning, and Podkul tacked on a second RBI for the day in the sixth to provide all the offense Notre Dame would need to secure the win. Podkul came up just a triple shy of the cycle to cap the strong weekend.
Moving forward, the Irish still have work to do if they want to make up ground in conference standings. They currently sit in sixth place in the ACC Atlantic division, but the gap is thin, as they are only two wins behind Wake Forest and Louisville in conference play. While Tuesday’s matchup is non-conference, it will still play a factor in the Irish being able to keep momentum going moving forward. After Valparaiso, Notre Dame will head into a weekend series against Boston College before another midweek matchup next Tuesday against Western Michigan. Following that is another home series in ACC play when Pittsburgh comes to town as the Irish wrap up their home stand.
Tuesday’s matchup against the Crusaders will be nearly a year to the day since the two teams last faced off on April 25. Although the Irish easily earned a 10-3 victory, the Crusaders have the ability to hit, with five batters currently averaging over .500 and 30 home runs on the season for the team. Notre Dame will look hope to keep the momentum going as Mik Aoki’s squad seeks to play consistent baseball with the regular season winding down.