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Irish look to rebound on weekend roadtrip

| Thursday, February 28, 2019

After splitting series with both Eastern Michigan and Incarnate Word in the Alamo Irish Classic over the weekend, the Notre Dame baseball team will open play in the Swig and Swine Classic on Friday in Charleston, South Carolina, against Charleston Southern. The Irish (2-5) are slated to play two-game series with Charleston Southern (2-6) and Ball State (2-5).

After beating Incarnate Word 2-1 on Friday, Notre Dame dropped the second game of the series Saturday, 15-7. In the second matchup, Incarnate Word took an early 6-0 lead in the top of the first inning, spurred by a three-run homer. The Irish didn’t score until the bottom of the fourth, when Eric Gilgenbach hit an RBI double. Gilgenbach finished with four RBIs and went 3-for-3 from the plate, but the Irish made four errors in the field and couldn’t recover from a costly first inning.

Observer Photo Department | The Observer
Senior Eric Gilgenbach looks for a hit in Frank Eck Baseball Stadium in a game against Northwestern last April.

Gilgenbach, one of the Notre Dame captains, has quickly emerged as a veteran leader after his breakout season last year. In 2018, Gilgenbach led Notre Dame in home runs (10) and RBIs (45) and made the Third-Team All-ACC squad. So far this season, Gilgenbach has batted .308 with three doubles and a team-leading nine RBIs.

Sophomore first baseman Daniel Jung is displaying his increased experience as well, leading Notre Dame among players who have played in all seven games with a .367 batting average. He has tallied two doubles and a triple, and is second on the team in RBIs with eight. Last year as a freshman, Jung played in 53 games and got 44 starts, finishing the season with 13 doubles. Another important contributor this season has been freshman Carter Putz, who currently has the second-best batting average among those on the team who have played in all seven games at .353.

Despite Gilgenbach and Jung’s combined 17 RBIs, Notre Dame has struggled to match opponents offensively, as four of the five Irish losses have been by eight or more runs. In their first three games of the season against Arizona State, the Irish were outscored 46-13, batting a combined .242 as a team in those three contests. In their four games since the season-opening series, the Irish have batted a combined .377.

All three teams in the upcoming Swing and Swine Classic have struggled early this season. Charleston Southern enters Friday’s matchup on a three-game losing skid, falling to Georgia State 15-6 and 7-6 before losing to Kent State 9-1.

Ball State opened its season in the GCU Classic in Tempe, Arizona, with a 2-1 loss to No. 12 Stanford, followed by a 12-2 loss to Grand Canyon University. The Cardinals picked up their first win of the season against CSU Bakersfield on Feb. 16. Since then, they have lost three of their last four games, most recently suffering a 6-0 loss to Alabama on Sunday.

Following the Swig and Swine Classic, Notre Dame will continue its road stretch with a three-game series at Wake Forest (5-4) March 8-10. The Irish won’t open their home schedule until March 22, when they host Florida State in a three-game series.

This Saturday, Notre Dame’s matchup with Charleston Southern will be broadcast on ESPN+. The first game of the weekend between the Irish and Buccaneers will begin at noon Friday.

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