Irish Baseball Weekend Preview

The Notre Dame baseball team has had a strange start to the season. The Irish are 3-6 on the year but have shown the ability to hang with the big boys. Notre Dame has beat No. 7 Nebraska and No. 12 TCU in consecutive weekends. But they've also lost to a six unranked squads, leaving them three games below .500. The positive news is that they left Florida last week after beating the Cornhuskers.

"We played a great game on Sunday," head coach Dave Schrage said. "It was a big win for us. Now we need to get some consistency. I've been saying that for a couple of weeks. We've shown we're capable of beating very good teams. I don't think it's been a lack on confidence, maybe more continuity and consistency playing games outside."

Notre Dame will travel back down to Florida to play eight games in eight days. First, they're off to the west coast of the state to participate in the Clearwater Invitational at Jack Russell Stadium. On Saturday, the Irish will take on Sacred Heart with first pitch set for 10 AM. On Sunday, they'll play in a doubleheader. Notre Dame will battle Duquesne at 10 AM and follow that up with a contest against Harvard at 2:15 PM. The Irish will end the Clearwater Invitational on Monday with another game versus the Crimson at 10 AM. After this four-contest set, the team will stay in Florida and play four more games in the FGCU Classic in Fort Myers.

"It'll be great for us to go down and play eight games in eight days," Schrage said. "We'll be out there every day and then come home and play five games in a week so our bats stay consistent. That's the main thing with our offense. We have to get at-bats on a regular basis in live games instead of every fifth or sixth day. It's a huge trip for us."

Sacred Heart awaits Notre Dame on Saturday. The Pioneers are 3-5 on the year and have lost two in a row. They've actually been down in Clearwater since March 4th, already playing five games in the city. Jovan Rodriguez leads the Sacred Heart regulars with a .320 average and it tied for the team lead in RBI's with six. He also is 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts. Jay Monti (1-1) has been the ace of the pitching staff so far. He's started two games and not allowed a run in 10 innings of work. All fives runs Monti has allowed have been unearned. The Irish's David Phelps will take the mound on Friday. The sophomore right-hander is 2-0 on the season with a 1.12 ERA. He's struck out 15 in 16 innings pitched.

On Sunday, the team will have double duty. First, Duquesne will try to improve on their 2-5 record. They've been in Clearwater since March 3rd and they've gone 2-2 in the four contests played. Brian Bernardo is hitting .353 with four RBI's. Bill Torre provides the offense with six RBI's to go along with .348. Notre Dame's Wade Korpi is scheduled to pitch against Duquesne. The junior left-hander, who was considered the ace of the Irish staff heading into the season, has not gotten out of the gate fast. Korpi is 1-2 on the year with a 4.50 ERA. He's walked 10 batters in 14 innings of work.

"That's one thing," Schrage said of walks contributing to Korpi's slow start. "Second, mechanically, he's not getting out in front and getting over to the front side of his pitches. As a result, he's leaving everything up and high. I know he's a guy that has to throw at the knees. He can't be a fly ball pitcher and he's given up more fly balls outs than ground ball outs. We watched film this week to look at his mechanics and tried to correct a few things. It's just a matter of extension in the front to get the ball down."

The Irish will end the Clearwater Invitational with two contests against Harvard, one on Sunday and the other on Monday morning. The Crimson still have not played a game this season and will open up on Saturday against Quinnipiac. Senior Dan Kapala is scheduled to start for Notre Dame. After missing his entire junior year because of an injury, Kapala has got off to a nice start in 2007. He's got a 2.70 ERA in 6.2 innings pitched. Kapala has worked exclusively out of the bullpen and will garner his first start of the season on Monday. Schrage hopes that by the time this eight-game stretch is done in Florida, a few issues will be resolved.

"We still have to settle in on a lineup," Schrage said. "That's the main thing the next eight games. Once we get into conference play, I don't want to be switching lineups all the time. Also, we need to get better defensively. I don't know what our fielding percentage is but it's not where I want it to be. We have to continue to focus on that." Top Stories