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Maryland baseball: Notre Dame comes to College Park for a three game set

Maryland has an opportunity to turn things around as they host Notre Dame for a three-game set this weekend.

No luck for the Irish in 2014

This is Notre Dame's first year in the ACC. It has not been a good one to put it mildly. ND has a 4 - 17 conference record, the worst of any team in the league. Overall they're 17 - 27. They don't hit well, their fielding has been quite problematic, and while they like to run they've been thrown out a lot. Conversely, their pitching has kept them in games throughout the season. But not close enough it seems: in games decided by a run or that went into extra innings, ND has a 4 - 15 record. It's as if they find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Notre Dame has yet to play an actual home game. Their playing field underwent refurbishing over the winter and was expected to be playable come Spring. But just like in Maryland, winter seemed to persist ad nauseum. Hence the Irish have played their "home" games at a nearby minor league team's park or in Chicago State University's ballpark.

ND has a pair of brothers with a big league pedigree: Cavan and Conor Biggio. Yes, they're the sons of Craig Biggio, who coached his sons in high school. The Biggio brothers have yet to display their father's ability as they're both hitting below .250. But they've got plenty of company in that regard, as ND has just two players batting over .280. (I've read that ND's second leading hitter, CF Mac Hudgins, is out for the season after injuring his shoulder on Wednesday.) ND's best all-around batter is first baseman Blaise Lezynski, who leads the team in batting average (.320), doubles, RBIs, and slugging percentage. Other than Lezynski there's no other player who's been a real threat at the plate.

Notre Dame's pitching has been good. Overall they have a very respectable 3.20 ERA. But the team's defense has put the ND pitchers in compromising situations that ultimately lead to giving up a crucial unearned run in a close game. Friday starter Sean Fitzgerald (McLean, VA) has been their most consistent pitcher, with a 3 - 3 record and a 2.29 ERA. One pitcher that has MLB scouts interested is Pat Connaughton (pronounced KON-a-ton). It's the same Pat Connaughton who plays for ND's basketball team and threw up 19 points in a loss to the Terps. At 6'5" and a fastball in the low to mid-nineties he is a poor man's Jake Stinnett. Unlike Stinnett he doesn't yet possess command of all of his pitches.

Golden opportunity for the Terps

Things haven't being going well for the Terps lately, regardless of the opposition's caliber. Maryland has been falling behind early by two or more runs, essentially negating their ability to play small ball. Opposing pitchers have been getting ahead in the count, throwing strikes and pitching to contact. But Notre Dame would be ill-advised to try this, given their woes in the field.

Pitching match-ups (courtesy of UMTerps: )

Friday: MD - Jake Stinnett, Sr., (R) (4-6, 2.92) vs. ND - Pat Connaughton, Jr., (R) (1-4, 5.54)

Saturday: MD - Mike Shawaryn, Fr., (R) (7-3, 3.17) vs. ND - Michael Hearne, So., (L) (4-4, 2.34)

Sunday: MD - Jake Drossner, So., (L) (4-1, 2.28) vs. ND - TBA

Not sure why Sean Fitzgerald isn't starting but that's a big break for the Terps.

The "law firm" of Stinnett, Shawaryn, & Drossner will most likely be able to quell the Fighting Irish's bats. If Maryland can get on top or keep the game close, there's an excellent chance they'll prevail. Maryland needs to and should take this series.