On Tuesday, Notre Dame baseball will travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State for the second time this season.
When these two teams first played April 11, the Spartans came away with a 7-6 win after 11 innings. Sophomore outfielder DM Jefferson, junior outfielder TJ Williams and graduate student Zack Prajzner were among Notre Dame’s players in that extra-inning defeat. Six different pitchers threw for the Irish, with junior Ryan Lynch being credited with the loss. Michigan State was much more productive at the plate, which ended up giving them the edge. Led by center fielder Greg Ziegler, they had 14 hits that led to seven runs.
Michigan State has been pretty inconsistent recently. After losing to Purdue Fort Wayne, they lost their most recent series against Michigan 2-1. They lost the first two games 5-3 and 8-3, respectively. But the Spartans found their stride to win the last game 14-2. Brock Vradenburg had four runs on three hits with five RBIs while Ziegler had three hits, driving in two. Hopefully for the Irish, the Spartans will cool off again before the first pitch.
That being said, the Irish have had a few pretty impressive performances recently as well. After sweeping the formally No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers last week, they are on a five-game winning streak and playing some of the best baseball Irish fans have seen all season. After their performance, first-year head coach Shawn Stiffler was impressed with the work ethic he has seen out of his team and attributes that and unvarying coaching expectations.
“I just think [we’ve stayed] consistent with [the] plan. Our players who we had believed in are rewarding us for believing in them. What’s nice about this group is if you want to show up, they’re going to be here to work. I’ve had to tell them to go home and get rest. When you consistently work, the game will reward you,” Stiffler said.
And rewards have certainly come for the Irish recently. In the first game against Virginia, the Irish won 10-7. Graduate student catcher Vinny Martinez and freshman infielder Estevan Moreno lead Notre Dame with three hits each. All of Moreno’s left the yard for his first career multi-homer game. In the 10-2 victory during the second game of the series, sophomore infielder Jack Penney had four runs and four hits, as the Irish collected a whopping 17-hit effort. Finally, Martinez had two of the Irish’s seven hits and two of their five RBIs in Sunday's 5-4 victory. As Stiffler said, the key to further Irish victories will be consistent play, so hopefully, those hitters will keep it up.
The Spartans and the Irish face off at 6 p.m.