Notre Dame set to renew rivalry with Indiana in neutral-site game
Tobias Hoonhout | Tuesday, April 17, 2018
After dropping a road series against No. 4 North Carolina State this past weekend, Notre Dame faces another top-10 team Tuesday night, as the Irish are set to play No. 8 Indiana in a nonconference, neutral-site contest.
The matchup with the Hoosiers (26-6, 6-2 Big Ten) will be Notre Dame’s first since 2015 and only the third meeting in the last 20 years.
While the Irish (15-21, 6-12 ACC) managed to use their bats to power past the Wolfpack (28-7, 13-5 ACC) in the series opener last Friday, belting five home runs in a 12-8 win, the bats were largely nonexistent in Saturday’s doubleheader, as Notre Dame was outscored 25-7 over the two games. With such hot-and-cold performances, Irish head coach Mik Aoki said he believes his team just needs to be more consistent, particularly as some of the younger guys become more of a factor for the Irish.
“I was encouraged by the continuation. I think, offensively, we’ve shown ourselves to be a pretty good team. Defensively, I think we’ve continued to play defense at a very high level,” he said. “I think the other thing was the emergence of some of the younger guys, in particular guys like [freshman right-hander] Joe Boyle and [freshman left-hander] Brandon Knarr and [freshman left-hander] Tommy Vail and [freshman right-hander] Brian Morrell. Those guys have started to develop, and I think they’re inching into a place where they can help us in certain spots.”
Notre Dame freshman pitchers threw a combined 14 innings over the weekend, headlined by dual-sport athlete Cole Kmet, who has become a regular in the back end of the bullpen for the Irish and who threw two scoreless innings Friday night to pick up his seventh save of the season. On the offensive end, while the Irish have been streaky of late, one constant presence has been second baseman Nick Podkul. The junior had at least a hit in every game this past weekend, including a home run Friday, and currently leads the team with a .331 batting average and 44 hits.
Although Notre Dame and Indiana have one of the oldest baseball rivalries in the country, and the two programs will play their 101st matchup Tuesday night in Indianapolis, the two teams have only played twice since 1998, the last being a 6-5 Indiana win in 2015. While Notre Dame leads the all-time series 67-32-1, the Irish have will have a tall task in handling one of college baseball’s hottest teams. The Hoosiers have won 10 of their last 11, including a series sweep of Northwestern this past weekend in which Indiana scored 40 runs over the three games. For Aoki, the Irish can start to get into a groove by taking one game at a time.
“As we sort of head towards the last weeks of conference play, I think we have 16 games left, and out of the neutral sight game and three games with Louisville,  of those 16 games are at home,” he said. “We’re not in a super place, but I feel optimistic about where we are. Our kids continue to show up every game and play really hard and have competed. I think we’re in a good place to move forward and make up a little ground here in the last quarter of the season.”
Although the Irish are sitting at 6-12 in the ACC, a win against the Hoosiers would be a big boost to a team that plays 11 of its next 12 games at home, including conference series against Virginia Tech, Boston College and Pittsburgh. First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7 p.m.