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Irish set to host Western Michigan as ACC tournament approaches

| Tuesday, May 1, 2018

After winning their second-straight ACC home series this past weekend against Boston College, the Irish face off against non-conference foe Western Michigan on Tuesday night looking to keep the momentum going as Notre Dame pushes for a spot in the ACC tournament.

“So far, so good, obviously we dropped the one game in each series [against the Eagles and Virginia Tech the previous week], but we came away with series wins in both and we were able to hold serve with the midweek game the other day against a pretty good [Valparaiso] team,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said on his team’s recent performances. “I feel pretty good about the way that the guys have been playing and how things have trended.”

Eddie Griesedieck | The Observer
Irish junior outfielder Eric Gilgenbach follows through on a swing during Notre Dame’s 2-0 loss to Northwestern on April 11 at Frank Eck Stadium.

The Irish (20-24, 10-14 ACC) and the Broncos (18-18, 8-8 MAC) have a long history, with Tuesday’s matchup being the 138th meeting between the two schools. Last year, Notre Dame wrapped up its home schedule with a 10-2 win over the Broncos. The Irish offense exploded for 10 runs and 15 hits, with current senior and left fielder Jake Johnson leading the way with a 5-for-5 day with two RBIs.

Notre Dame will be looking to keep its momentum going as the team remains in the hunt for a spot in the ACC tournament. The Irish currently sit sixth in the Atlantic Division with six conference games to go, and still have a shot at making the tournament after going 5-2 over the recent homestand. Aoki credited his team with staying focused on the task at hand.

“I think for a young team that’s a skill that we’re trying to continue to foster and cultivate. They’ve done a really good job of that. This team has been really together, it’s a good character team,” Aoki said. “They definitely prioritize ‘we’ over ‘me.’ we struggled with that last year, and I think all of that Draft stuff and the Draft noise that surrounded it really contributed to a little splintering. But this group has been very good, and I give credit to guys like [junior second baseman Nick] Podkul and [junior third baseman Matt] Vierling and [junior right fielder Eric Gilgenbach], who to a certain extent at varying levels are getting a lot of professional attention.

“ … They have done a really good job about being about the team rather than getting their numbers, or ‘where am I playing,’ or all those different types of things, so it’s good. I think that part of our clubhouse has been really enjoyable.”

For the Irish to keep up the momentum in hopes of making the tournament, Aoki thinks the focus starts with the Broncos at home Tuesday.

“These four games that we have just before exams start are really important, just to get us one step closer to .500 hopefully on Tuesday if we go up there and play at a high level,” he said. “Pitt has been playing well throughout the course of the season, so that should be a good test for us, but if we can figure out a way to go 3-4 or maybe even 4-4 in these last four I think that will put us in a pretty good place going into those last four at Northwestern and then down at Louisville.

“ … If we can take three out of four, I think that will maybe even before we go to Louisville sort of salt away at least a birth in the ACC Tournament. These are important games for certain.”

First pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m. Tuesday at Frank Eck Stadium.

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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