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Irish Prepare to Take on Villanova in BIG EAST Series

Apr 5, 2013, 2:59 PM EDT

The No. 20 Fighting Irish (17-9, 2-4 BIG EAST) will take on the Villanova Wildcats (8-19, 0-3 BIG EAST) in a three-game series this weekend at Frank Eck Stadium.

Although Villanova has struggled so far this season, the Wildcats and Irish have performed similarly in the past week. Both teams were swept by BIG EAST opponents last weekend (Notre Dame to No. 9 Louisville, Villanova to Rutgers), and both are coming off of two-game win streaks.

The Irish rebounded from their season-high three-game losing streak with wins over UIC (6-2) and Valparaiso (3-1) on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Junior 1B Trey Mancini led the Irish offense in both wins, hitting 4-4 with 2 RBI against UIC, and coming through with a clutch eight-inning, two-run single that gave the Irish the lead against Valparaiso.

Villanova picked up back-to-back wins over in-state rivals Penn (5-4) and La Salle (3-1) on Tuesday and Wednesday. They are looking to string together a couple more wins to improve on their current win streak.

The first game of the series will be played Friday night at 5:35 p.m. ET at Frank Eck Stadium. Sophomore pitcher Pat Connaughton (0-1) will be making his third start of the season, after switching from the basketball court to the diamond. So far Connaughton has posted a 3.38 ERA in 5.1 innings pitched.

Senior Adam Norton (6-0) will take the mound for the Irish in Saturday’s matinee at 2:05 p.m. ET. Norton has been an ace for the Irish this year, posting a miniscule 1.39 ERA over 7 starts, including a complete-game shutout of No. 25 Virginia Tech on March 2.

The series finale will be played at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. The starter for the Irish is currently TBA, providing an opportunity for any of the Irish pitchers to step up and make an impact.

Spring might finally be making an appearance this weekend in South Bend, with temperatures projected in the 50s and possibly even the 60s on Saturday. It should be a beautiful weekend for baseball as the Irish look to remain undefeated at Frank Eck Stadium.

On paper, this may look like an easy matchup for the Irish. Villanova has struggled this year, but no team can be taken for granted. The Irish themselves have struggled out of the gate in BIG EAST play, posting a 2-4 record so far. In baseball, any team can win on a given day. For the Irish, these BIG EAST games could make or break a season when tournament time rolls around in May.

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