This weekend, the Irish will look to get back on track as they host Seton Hall for a three-game set starting on Friday at Frank Eck Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 PM while the weekend contests will start at 1:05 PM. The Pirates come into the contest at 19-20 and 5-10 in the Big East, good for 10th in the conference. The top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament being held this year in Brooklyn, New York. Notre Dame is tied with Cincinnati for the sixth position at 8-9. As was evidenced by Wednesday's game with Franklin College, teams aren't going to lay down for the Irish.
"Seton Hall comes in 5-10," head coach Dave Schrage said. "They know coming in if they lose, they could be eliminated from post-season play. They are going to be playing with a real sense of urgency. Two, they beat us two of three last year. So they'll be confident coming in here knowing they can beat us."
The Irish have their weekend rotation set. Going on Friday is David Phelps, the unquestioned ace of the Notre Dame staff. The sophomore right-hander is 7-3 on the year with a 1.64 ERA. Phelps has won his past three starts and has struck out 67 batters in 76.2 innings pitched. On Saturday, Dan Kapala will get the ball. The senior right-hander is 0-4 in 2007 but still has an ERA of 2.51. Kapala has allowed nine earned runs in comparison to eight unearned runs. Closing out the series will be Sam Elam. The sophomore left-hander has been on his game the past two starts. Elam (0-1, 3.45 ERA) threw nine innings of one-hit ball in the Irish's 1-0 victory over Purdue and allowed an unearned run in 4.2 innings of work in Notre Dame's 7-3 win against Ball State.
Seton Hall comes to town losers of four of five games. Three of the five conference wins for the Pirates came in a sweep versus Georgetown. Seton Hall is not getting the job done at the plate. The Pirates are third to last in the Big East in team hitting at .254. Schrage hopes his trio of starters can keep this average from rising.
"If you look at their scores, they've lost a lot of a ton of 3-2, 2-1 games," Schrage said. "Their weakest spot right now is their hitting. Hopefully, our pitchers can shut them down and we can score enough runs."
The Pirates have three batters hitting over .300. Greg Miller leads the team at .333. The sophomore has scored 48 runs and has hit four home runs. John Walsh is second at .327. The senior leads Seton Hall with 34 RBI's and has blasted seven round trippers. Casey Hines adds a .323 average and is second on the team with 22 RBI's.
Keith Cantwell leads the starters with a 3.66 ERA. The sophomore right-hander is 1-1 on the year with a 3.66 ERA. Cantwell has 51 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched. Corey Young is 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA. The sophomore left-hander has struck out 40 batters in 53.2 innings of work. Dan Merklinger has the most decisions on the staff at 4-5 and has a high ERA of 5.74. The junior left-hander has whiffed 60 hitters in 53.1 innings of work. The presence of two lefties in the starting rotation this weekend gives Schrage some slight concern.
"We're facing two left-handed pitchers," Schrage said. "If you look at the statistics, we haven't exactly been tearing the cover off the ball against lefties. By no means are we thinking this is going to be a walk in the park."