Irish Can't Find Bats

<P>The Irish baseball team lost the final game of a three-game series with West Virginia 5-1 on Sunday allowing the Mountaineers to jump ahead of the Irish in BIG EAST standings. The Irish could not find their bats all weekend as the Mountaineer pitchers kept the Irish hitters guessing and off-balance throughout the series. </P>

Rutgers (26-15, 15-4 BIG EAST) took over first place with the Irish loss and the Mountaineers (31-14, 14-4 BIG EAST) are now in second place. Notre Dame (36-12, 14-4 BIG EAST) is third with a weekend series against Rutgers on the horizon.

Starter Ryan Kalita took the mound on Sunday and cruised the first few innings allowing just two hits and zero runs.

The Mountaineers got started in the top of third as Travis D' Amico singled to left field. He was later knocked in on a fielder's choice plating the first Mountaineer run giving West Virginia the 1-0 lead.

West Virginia scored another run in the fifth as shortstop Grant Psomas homered over the left field wall giving the Mountaineers the 2-0 lead.

Left fielder Jake Serfass homered in the sixth with a shot over the center field wall giving West Virginia the 3-0 lead.

The Irish threatened in the bottom of the seventh with Matt Edwards (3-for-4, run) and Cody Rizzo (2-for-4) hitting singles to give the Irish only their third and fourth base runners of the game. Matt Macri then walked loading the bases. Designated hitter Matt Bransfield hit a fly ball to center scoring Edwards for the only Irish run in the game.

Every West Virginia starter went the distance against Notre Dame in the series. Shawn Miller took the loss in the first game despite throwing six innings, allowing only four hits, one run and zero earned runs. Chris Niesel shut the door on his fine outing with a one-hit shutout giving the Irish the 1-0 victory.

The Irish did manage to record seven hits and five runs in the second game against Mountaineer starter Jason DiAngelo. The Irish pitching wasn't able to hold down the Mountaineer bats however and West Virginia scored seven runs on 12 hits and also homered for the first time in the series.

Mountaineer Zac Cline finished the series throwing nine strong innings, allowing six hits and just one earned run. The Mountaineers were able to homer twice against the Irish pitching giving West Virginia the only runs they would need to jump over the Irish in BIG EAST standings.

Coach Paul Mainieri was frustrated with the lack of hitting. "We didn't play terrible this weekend, we just didn't hit very well," said Mainieri. "It seemed like all weekend we couldn't get a big hit, that was disappointing. I said before the weekend that the weekend would come down to how our hitting would do against their pitching and their pitching was better than our hitting."

Mainieri didn't feel like he got a lot of good at-bats out of his hitters. "They swung the bat like a lot of kids that are struggling with their confidence. They were chasing a lot of bad balls and every time they took a pitch, it was a strike. We had a lot of hitters hitting on 0-2 counts. When you are kind of in a rut, it seems like all the breaks go against you."

The Irish didn't play their best this weekend but Mainieri knows his team is still in the race. "We're one of three teams that are bunched in there at the top with six games to play so anything can happen. Obviously we've got a tough challenge ahead of us going to Rutgers and also going to Virginia Tech. We've been there before and we've done it. I have confidence that our kids will be ready to play. All the goals that we have for our team are still right out there in front of us and attainable. We're going out to Rutgers and play as hard as we can."

The Irish will face Rutgers on the road this weekend and follow up with a road series with Virginia Tech (30-16, 13-7 BIG EAST). The road became tougher with the loss on Sunday as the Irish will have to win both series and hope that West Virginia loses a few of their remaining BIG EAST games against Villanova and Boston College to win the regular season title.


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