March 20, 2014
ACC Series 3: Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech: 10-8-1, 3-3 ACC (40-22, 15-14 ACC In 2013)
Live Game Coverage:
Weather Report (as of Thursday, March 20):
First pitch at the Cove is set for 5:35 p.m. and will see Notre Dame's RHP Sean Fitzgerald (2-1) go toe-to-toe with the Hokies' RHP Brad Markey (2-2). Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for youth and seniors and free for children under the age of three. Notre Dame students, faculty and staff will be admitted free with their Notre Dame ID.
Saturday and Sunday will take the Irish and Hokies on the road straight down U.S. 31 to Grand Park in Westfield where they will play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and then again at 11 a.m. Sunday. Saturday's rotation battle will see Notre Dame send sophomore RHP Nick McCarty (0-4) to the mound to face off with LHP Sean Keselica (1-0). Sunday the Irish will throw junior RHP Pat Connaughton (0-0), while Virginia Tech has yet to decide on a starter. Admission is free for Notre Dame season pass holders and $5 for everyone else. The address to the complex is 711 East 191st, Westfield, IN 46074.
A series that began all the way back in 1955 with an 8-5 Irish win was renewed 46 years later as the two teams competed against each other in four BIG EAST series from 2001-04. While the two historic programs haven't met for a series since '04, they did play last season at the USA Baseball-Irish Classic in Cary, N.C., with Notre Dame emerging with a 3-0 win. Junior Ryan Bull notched a hit in that contest, but all three RBI came from current minor leaguer Trey Mancini while the remaining four hits were split between Mancini, graduate Frank Desico and minor leaguer Eric Jagielo. Graduate Adam Norton hurled a complete game in the win.
The Irish (7-12, 0-6 ACC) are looking for their first ACC win in program history after a pair of close sweeps at NC State and Duke. In those two series, the Irish lost five of the six games by three runs or less including four by two runs or less and three by one run. Two of the losses were 1-0 decisions. Notre Dame did build a bit of momentum Tuesday night as it stepped out of conference and shut out NAIA member Robert Morris (IL), 3-0, at Chicago State's Cougar Stadium.
Virginia Tech (10-8-1, 3-3 ACC) enters the weekend on a four-game win streak after a sweep of ACC foe Pittsburgh and a non-conference win over Rutgers Wednesday night. First-year head coach Patrick Mason leads the Hokies after serving as an assistant coach and then associate head coach for three seasons.
While the Irish are middle of the pack in team pitching (3.38 ERA), but last in team hitting (.234 avg.), the Hokies are the exact opposite as their hitting ranks in the upper half of the league (.266 avg.) but their pitching is dead last (5.73 ERA).
Leading the Hokie bats is catcher Mark Zagunis. A career .333 hitter, Zagunis has started all 19 games this season and is hitting .280 with four doubles, 16 RBI, 12 walks and 18 runs scored. He has also stolen four bases this season and 40 for his career in 129 starts.
"He's a really good player that is a good athlete, has a good swing and some juice in his bat," said head coach Mik Aoki. "Behind the plate he is a three-year starter and he can certainly control the running game. He knows the different situations that can occur out there so he certainly won't be rattled by anything that goes on. He's played at a high level since he has been there."
Fans that can't make it out to the park can watch Friday night's game on WatchND. All three games will also be available through online radio broadcast (WHME 103.1 FM/WatchND) and gametracker or by following @NDBaseball on Twitter.
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director