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Irish strive for consistency as homestand kicks off

| Friday, April 20, 2018

This weekend, Notre Dame begins its first series in a long stretch of home games when the Irish take on Virginia Tech at Frank Eck Stadium.

For the Irish (15-22, 6-12 ACC), being able to play at home could not come at a better time as the team is looking to break out of a cold streak, having lost six of its last eight games.

Chris Collins | The Observer
Irish sophomore Zack Martin delivers a pitch during Notre Dame’s 4-1 loss to Kent State on Match 27 at Frank Eck Stadium.

This past week, Notre Dame took a trip to Indianapolis for a neutral site game against No. 8 Indiana on Tuesday, a contest the Irish came up short in by a score of 3-0. Play started out strong for Notre Dame with sophomore right-hander Zack Martin on the mound. Martin was able to go four innings while giving up just one hit and holding the Hoosiers (28-6, 6-2 Big Ten) scoreless. Indiana was finally able to get on the scoreboard in the sixth inning when a two run home run off sophomore right-hander Anthony Holubecki gave the Hoosiers the lead. Indiana picked up an insurance run in the seventh, and the Hoosiers walked away with the victory.

Before the matchup with Indiana, Notre Dame had just come back from a weekend trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, where the Irish faced No. 2 North Carolina State in a three-game series. Now back home, the Irish are left with less daunting tasks, starting with a Virginia Tech  team with a losing record. Irish head coach Mik Aoki recognizes that this is crucial stretch for his team to get the season back on track.

“I think we enter a stretch here where we play nine-straight conference games at home, and I think it’s important for us to achieve that consistency which has eluded us a little bit throughout the year,” Aoki said. “We’re doing it in a place with which we’re obviously really familiar because we’re doing it at home, and we’re going to be going up against a group of teams that are sort of similar in terms of record and how we’ve performed both overall and within the conference. I think we’re looking at the next three weeks … as a great opportunity.”

For the Irish and the Hokies (16-21, 6-12 ACC), it has been quite a while since their last matchup. The two teams did not face off last season, and the last contest between them dates back to late March of the 2016 season. Notre Dame walked away from that series with a clean sweep down in Blacksburg, Virginia, a season in which the Irish finished 27-27 on the year. Aoki knows that if his team will be able to repeat that type of performance this weekend, it all begins with a focus on playing consistent baseball like it has been striving for all season.

“I think we’re looking … to hopefully put that level of consistency together, and obviously that starts with Virginia Tech. We want to go in there and play at a really high level and play very consistently,” Aoki said. “Hopefully we can give ourselves a little jumping off point where we can make a run here.”

Following Virginia Tech, Notre Dame will play host to Valparaiso, Boston College, Western Michigan and Pittsburgh before the squad hits the road again in mid-May. It is a critical few weeks coming up where the Irish will have their shot to get back into contention in the ACC standings where they currently sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division.

Play gets underway at 6:05 p.m. on Friday, when the South Bend weather is looking as if it will improve.

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