Irish Drop a Costly Game to Ball State

The starting debut of senior pitcher John Axford didn't quite go as planned on Wednesday. The righthander has been battling back from elbow surgery and was scheduled to start on Wednesday. Axford couldn't find the strike zone early, and costly errors put the Irish in a hole that they couldn't dig out of as they fell to Ball State, 14-5.

Axford struggled early with his control and couldn't make it out of the first inning, eventually giving way to Tyler Jones.

The Cardinals plated six funs in the first, two in the second and four in the third to build an early 12-0 lead.

The Irish were plagued by errors (five), walks (five) and also struggled at the plate for most of the game before finally pushing four runs across in the seventh.

Senior first baseman Matt Edwards continued his impressive pace as he slammed another homer, this time a 3-run shot, to give him 11 on the season and also adding another 3 RBI to total 42 on the season.

The bad news for the Irish was the performance of Axford. The talented Ontario, Canada native has an exploding fastball and is a power pitcher the Irish desperately need. It appears the senior hasn't quite solved his control issues at this point.

"His sophomore year he started out 9-0 and he just hit a rut and he lost his confidence and his command, and then he hurt his arm in the fall of his junior year," said Mainieri of Axford. "It's just one of those things that the kid has to just find his confidence again."

Mainieri was hoping Axford could be one of the answers to get the Irish back on track in the BIG EAST race. Mainieri says he's not giving up on Axford just yet.

"We'll run him out there again," Mainieri said when asked about Axford's future on the mound. "I'm not sure when, but we're going to try again. I just can't give up on the kid. He's a senior. The kid gave up a lot to come to school. He's pitched well for us before. I've got to give him another chance."

The other alarming stat for the Irish is their defense. Notre Dame has committed 13 errors in the last three games—something that really bothers Mainieri as defense has always been a trademark of Mainieri's teams.

"That's eating at my probably more than anything," Mainieri said of the costly errors. "You can understand with the pitchers on occasion, but our infield defense has been a big concern for me all year. Third base has been our Achilles heel all season.

"The infield has probably been an even bigger concern for me than even our pitching because we've always taken great pride in our defense. I really feel we have the players to play great defense in the infield. We just haven't played great defense in the infield."

The Irish travel to Boston this weekend for a three-game series with Boston College in another critical series in the BIG EAST race. Mainieri said he's going to try something different this weekend to try to spark his team.

"Dan Kapala is going to get his first career start in the seven inning game out at Boston College," Mainieri said. "He's a guy that throws the ball as hard as anybody we've got. I'm hoping that maybe something like that will be a spark for us."


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