March 6, 2014
ACC Series 1: NC State
3 p.m. / 4 p.m. / 1 p.m.
Doak Field at Dail Park
Notre Dame: 5-6, 0-0 ACC (34-24, 10-14 BIG EAST In 2013)
Postseason: Lost To UConn In BIG EAST Final
NC State: 10-2, 0-0 ACC (50-16, 19-10 ACC In 2013)
Postseason: Advanced To College World Series (1-2)
NC State: Top 8 in five major polls
(High: 6, Baseball America)
ND trails 1-0
Only Meeting: L, neutral, 10-8 (1/31/1998)
Aoki vs. NC State: 5-7 (all at Boston College)
Live Game Coverage:
Live Video: WatchND (ESPN3 Feed)Live Audio: WHME 103.1 FM (Chuck Freeby, pbp) or WatchND (Links on UND.com)
Live Stats: UND.com (Gametracker)Twitter Reports: @ND Baseball / @NDsidRuss
Weather Report (as of Wednesday, March 5):
Friday, March 7: 47 Degrees (70% Chance of Rain)
Saturday, March 8: 65 Degrees and Mostly Cloudy
Sunday, March 9: 64 Degrees and Mostly Sunny
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The first Atlantic Coast Conference series in program history has arrived for the University of Notre Dame baseball team as it heads to Raleigh, N.C., this weekend for a meeting with reigning College World Series participant NC State.
The three-game set against the Wolfpack gets underway at 3 p.m. Friday, with a 4 p.m. game Saturday and a 1 p.m. contest Sunday rounding out the series. The trio of games marks the beginning of Notre Dame’s spring break, as the Irish will bunker down in the same Cary, N.C., hotel for 10 days. They will also play a mid-week game at Appalachian State and a three-game series against ACC foe Duke to round out the trip. At the conclusion of the excursion Notre Dame will have played 11 consecutive games in the Tar Heel State when including the four contests at last weekend’s USA Baseball-Irish Classic.
Notre Dame enters the series at 5-6 after going 1-2 at No. 24 Florida Atlantic, 2-2 at the Irish Classic in San Antonio and 2-2 at the USA Baseball-Irish Classic in Cary, N.C., to open the 2014 season.
Coming into the matchup with the `Pack, sophomore shortstop Lane Richards has been swinging the lumber with great efficiency as he batted a team-high .400 last weekend with six hits, two doubles and four runs scored in addition to a sterling 1.000 fielding percentage. In addition, freshman Kyle Fiala has gotten his bat figured out as he batted .357 with five hits, a double, two RBI and three walks in the four contests. The Carmel, Ind., native produced the game-tying single against Appalachian State Sunday in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and two strikes. The knock to right field tied the contest at three and sent the game to extra innings, with the Irish winning in 11, 4-3.
On the mound, senior Sean Fitzgerald has been steady thus far on the year as he sports a 2-1 record with a 1.93 ERA. Opponents are batting a slim .143 against him and have succumbed to the strikeout 20 times so far. Fitzgerald’s lone loss was a 2-1 decision to No. 19 UCLA where he gave up two runs (one earned) and a pair of hits in six innings of work.
Elsewhere on the staff, sophomore Nick McCarty has looked solid in the past two outings, most recently going 7.1 innings last week against Michigan and giving up two runs on five hits to earn the no-decision.
Out of the bullpen, sophomore Michael Hearne has oftentimes baffled opponents as he has struck out 14 batters and issued just one walk in five appearances. The Palos Heights, Ill., native has opponents hitting just .173 against him as he sports a 1-0 mark with a 3.00 ERA.
The Irish will throw Fitzgerald Friday, McCarty Saturday and junior transfer Robert Youngdahl (1-0) Sunday.
NC State enters the weekend at 10-2 and has at times looked equally as good as the 2013 Wolfpack squad that advanced to Omaha. They boast a pair of projected first round draft picks in LHP Carlos Rodon and SS Trea Turner, with Rodon the projected No. 1 pick of June’s MLB Draft by many publications.
“NC State doesn’t have a whole lot of chinks in its armor,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “We’re going to be facing (on Friday) the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. We’re going to get in there and compete like crazy.”
Rodon boasts a power arm that can rack up the strikeouts, but has been hit some this season. He enters Friday with a 1-2 record and 2.14 ERA. He has given up 10 runs (five earned) in 21.0 innings of work while striking out 23 and walking six.
“Obviously, with Rodon, you have a narrow margin for error,” said Aoki. “In basketball, when you’re facing LeBron James, you know that LeBron is going to get his points. When you’re facing a guy like Rodon, he’s going to get his punch-outs. He’s probably going to punch you out nine, 10, 12 times. That doesn’t mean you’re going to lose the game. It just means you have to make your other outs productive.
“We don’t really change our approach when we’re facing a guy like him. You just have to go out there and play your game. Individually, you play to what you do well. You go up there with a plan and try to execute that plan to the best of your ability.”
Turner, known for his speed on the base paths, is batting .370 with 17 hits, 13 runs scored and nine stolen bases. Pacing the `Pack at the plate so far this season is freshman Andrew Knizner, who is batting .432 with 19 hits, four doubles, two homers, 12 RBI and nine runs scored.
“Turner changes a lot of stuff,” said Aoki. “He’s a guy that flies, with a little bit of juice in his bat. Thankfully, we can limit him to three or four at-bats a game. We don’t have to worry about him being on the bases if we don’t let him on the bases. At the same time, he’s going to say something about that, too.
“One of our strengths as a pitching staff over the last couple years is that we’re able to control the running game, to a certain extent. We put a pretty high emphasis on that. We’ve got two catchers who are capable of throwing guys out and controlling the running game. With Turner, you’ve got a unique and special talent, which is why he is being considered as a potential first round draft pick. If he gets a couple stolen bases on you, well, great. You just have to make the pitches and the outs so that he doesn’t eventually cross home plate.”
State will send RHP Logan Jernigan (2-0, 1.04 ERA) and LHP Brad Stone (2-0, 2.20 ERA) to the mound on Saturday and Sunday.
The two squads have met only once before on the diamond – a 10-8 Irish loss in 1998.
All three games can be watched online through ESPN3 via the WatchND links on UND.com. In addition, a radio broadcast of all three contests will be available on WatchND. As usual, gametracker will be up and running and live tweets will be posted from @NDBaseball’s Twitter account.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director