April 27, 2017
|Game Notes (PDF)|
By Michael Scholl
Five Things To Know
- The Notre Dame baseball team looks to continue a nine-game winning streak at Frank Eck Stadium this weekend as it hosts Duke for a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series. The Irish (20-22, 8-13 ACC) and Blue Devils (22-21, 8-13 ACC) are currently in a five-way tie for eighth in the ACC as teams battle for 12 spots in the ACC Baseball Championship with three series to play.
- Notre Dame and Duke have met a dozen times, with the Blue Devils having won eight of those contests. The only meeting between the schools since the Irish joined the ACC came in 2014, when Duke swept a three-game set in Durham, North Carolina, with a 4-3 win in 10 innings, a 4-1 decision and a 1-0 win in the series finale. Prior to that, the most recent meeting was a 3-1 Duke win in Orlando. Duke also took a 4-2 victory at the Seattle Kingdome in 1990. Notre Dame won four of the first six games in the series (all in Durham), which started in 1955. The most recent Irish victory was a 5-4 victory in 1989.
- Matt Vierling will carry a seven-game hitting streak into the Duke series as the centerfielder has continued to find his swing in the second half of April. Over those seven games, Vierling is hitting .500 (15-for-30) with four doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBI. He has struck out just twice in the 30 at-bats while reaching base at a .500 clip. Vierling has coupled with Ryan Lidge to form a potent heart of the lineup for Mik Aoki. Lidge will enter the Duke series having reached base in 20 straight contests, the longest active streak by an Irish player. While starting all 20 of those games behind the dish, Lidge has hit .313 during the streak with a team-best 18 RBI, seven doubles, his first career triple and a home run. He also boasts the team’s best on-base percentage over the last 20 games at .434.
- In addition to more success at the plate, reliable Irish pitching has helped the club win 13-of-20. Graduate student Michael Hearne has emerged as one of the best strike-throwers in the country. Hearne leads the ACC and ranks 25th nationally with a 1.18 walks per nine innings rate. In addition, the southpaw is 10th in the conference with a 4.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his victory at No. 19 Virginia, which saw Hearne carry a no-hitter into the sixth and a shutout into the ninth, he walked more than one hitter in an appearance for just the second time all season. At the back end of the bullpen, Sean Guenther has become a reliable stopper during conference play. The junior lefty has the top ERA on the team (among pitchers with more than three innings) at 1.42 during league games and leads the team with five saves overall on the year.
- Improvement continues to be the key word for Notre Dame this season. Since a 1-8 start, the Irish have posted a 19-14 mark and have improved in nearly every category, most notably pitching. Over the first nine games, Irish hurlers had a 7.85 ERA while opponents were batting .316. In the 33 games since the ERA has been 3.61 with opponents hitting .248. Behind those pitchers, the Notre Dame defense has made 36 errors in the last 33 games after committing 20 miscues in the first nine contests. Things have improved at the plate, as well. After hitting .221 in the opening stretch, the Irish have hit .254 as a team over the last 33, led by Matt Vierling’s .317 mark in that stretch. Notre Dame is 18-2 against unranked teams over the last 33 games, they are 1-12 against teams in the D1Baseball.com Top 25 after securing that elusive first win over a ranked team last weekend at No. 19 Virginia.
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Michael Scholl joined Fighting Irish Media in August 2016, coordinating communications for the baseball program and assisting with the football team at his alma mater. The South Bend native earned a degree in political science from the College of Arts & Letters in 2009 before going on to work in athletics communications at Providence College, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.