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    Chuck In the Armor - Villanova Preview

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    Chuck Freeby is a 1986 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and the voice of Fighting Irish baseball on Harvest Radio (WHME 103.1 FM) and UND.com. He returns to Irish UNDerground with the latest 'Chuck in the Armor' post, previewing this weekend's series with Villanova.

    Sitting at 4-5 after back-to-back losses to Ohio and Michigan State, Jake Kline probably didn't expect his Notre Dame squad to go the College World Series in 1957 any more than Mik Aoki expects to go to Omaha in 2012.

    But Jake's Irish did...and the 2012 Irish still could reach an NCAA regional and compete for an opportunity.

    As you read this, you're probably saying, "now I know why Freeby didn't make the road trip...they locked him up." Look, I know a CWS trip seems absurd to think about after Wednesday night's loss to Valparaiso. The Irish were outplayed in every facet of the game by the Crusaders, leaving them at 23-21 for the season.

    But the goal is still possible. First things first, the Irish have to qualify for the BIG EAST Tournament. You don't want to take that for granted, and that's why this weekend's games at Villanova are important, because they can help solidify position in case Georgetown or Pittsburgh gets hot.

    So let's say the Irish make the BIG EAST tournament. Let's see a show of hands from the teams who really want to face Irish ace Will Hudgins in the opening game. Not many hands going up there. The "Richmond Rifle" has posted a phenomenal 2.22 ERA this season. He can beat anybody in the league. Get that win, and you might go with Pat Connaughton, as the freshman should be in peak form by then and has pitched well his last two outings. Sean Fitzgerald has had some great bullpen outings and Dan Slania leads the league in saves.

    Now ask yourself this...does anyone have a better 3-4-5 in the league than Eric Jagielo, Trey Mancini and Joe Hudson? Yes, they had a dismal weekend against St. John's, but hitting is a contagious thing. When one guy gets cold, it seems to spread. When one gets hot, all three seem to swing it well. Hudson's three hits on Wednesday could be a harbinger. And Louisville is the only other team in the league besides Notre Dame that has five regulars batting above .300.

    My point is...this is a team that is still capable of winning the BIG EAST tournament. Of the nine Notre Dame BIG EAST losses, seven are by two runs or less. And if you can win the BIG EAST, you make the NCAA Tournament. And if you make the tournament, you've got a shot at Omaha. Ask Fresno State, who lost 31 games the year they won the national championship. Ask the 1957 Irish.

    Ask Senator John Blutarsky.

    "Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Heck, no! And it ain't over now! Because when the going gets tough, the tough get going!"

    Who's with me?

    - Chuck Freeby '86

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