Baseball: UM looks to stay hot vs Irish

Coming off yet another series sweep, this time against the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Miami Hurricanes will look to stay hot in their weekend series at home against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

In their first season in the ACC, the Irish have really struggled. Their 15-21 overall record certainly isn't all that impressive, but it's their 3-15 record in ACC play that's really bothersome. Believe it or not, they're actually coming into the series on a winning streak in conference play, as they won the last two games of their series against Boston College last weekend.

The offense has been the trouble spot for the Irish. As a team, they are hitting an even .250 and their lineup is top-heavy. Their leading hitter is hitting .336, but no one else is hitting better than .281.

That leading hitter I speak of is Blaise Lezynski. The junior outfielder from Pennsylvania has a .403 on-base percentage, ten doubles, and 23 RBI to go along with his .336 average. Among regulars, he leads the team in all four categories. Behind him, the next-best hitter is Zak Kutsulis, who is hitting .281 with nine doubles and 18 RBI.

Although he has only started about half of Notre Dame's games this season, catcher Forrest Johnson has been productive as well. The senior is hitting .281 with 12 RBI. Mac Hudgins (.272 BA, .379 OBP), Kyle Fiala (.256 BA, .358 OBP), and Lane Richards (.254 BA, eight doubles) round out the regular contributors.

Power is certainly not their strong suit. As a team, they have five home runs, three of which belong to hitters with batting averages below the Mendoza Line. Robert Youngdahl (.195) has two of them and Ryan Bull (.197) has one.

The pitching has been quite a bit better, as evidenced by their 3.21 team ERA. Given how poor the offense has been, you have to feel for these guys a little bit.

On Saturday, the Canes will be matched up with Sean Fitzgerald. The senior from McLean, Virginia is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA. In 62.1 innings, he has struck out 43 and walked 18. Opposing batters are hitting .208 against him. On Sunday, they will see lefty Michael Hearne. He is 2-4 with a 2.26 ERA. In 51.2 innings, he has struck out 39 and walked nine. The batting average against him is .235. It will be just his fifth start of the season.

In the finale due for prime time on ESPNU Monday night, the Pat Connaughton will take the mound for the Irish. The 6'5" two-sport star just joined the team a few weeks ago after basketball season ended and so far, he has been up and down. He is 1-2 with a 5.11 ERA. In his five starts and 24.2 innings, he has struck out 17, walked 19, and opposing batters are hitting .289 against him.

If the Hurricanes can get into the bullpen, things don't get a whole lot easier from there. Although he may not have the most sparkling numbers, Donnie Hissa has been the workhorse out of the bullpen. In 33 innings spread over 19 appearances, he has an even 3.00 ERA and a .211 batting average against him.

Although in a smaller sample size, the numbers of Matt Ternowchek have been sparkling. He has a 1.50 ERA in his 12 innings of work. Robert Youngdahl, who has started four games in addition to his two relief appearances, has a 1.93 ERA and a .217 batting average against him. Cristian Torres has also been quite good. In 12.2 innings over 12 appearances, he has a 3.55 ERA and a .209 batting average against him.

There's a pretty decent chance that Notre Dame is not as bad as their record would indicate, as they have only been outscored by nine runs total this season. That means Miami is going to have to come out and play the game as always, but there's really no reason why the Hurricanes can't sweep this series if they play like they have been for the last several weeks.

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