Apr 15, 2013, 5:27 PM EDT
As we boarded the bus after this past weekend’s sweep to Pittsburgh, I asked freshman right fielder Zak Kutsulis, “How close did you come to catching it?”
Kutsulis didn’t need clarification. He knew that “ball” I was referring to came off the bat of Eric Hess in the 5th inning, with two out and two on, of Sunday’s finale.
“It grazed the top of my mitt as it went out,” he said dejectedly. Out, as in out of the park for a three-run homer. Out, as in Notre Dame being out of the game the rest of the way.
And as bad as the sweep was…and it was bad…the Irish were so close all weekend to making it a much different story. Yes, Notre Dame was outscored 20-4, on the weekend, but it really was much closer than that.
Mik Aoki felt his team made more “barrel contacts” this week than any time all year, but they often went right at fielders. Charlie Markson hit two rockets up the middle in consecutive at bats, each time hitting the pitcher on the body and resulting in an out. The first eight balls Trey Mancini hit this weekend were lasers…and all resulted in outs.
Crash Davis told us the difference between a .250 and ,300 hitter over the course of a season is a bloop, a flare, a Texas Leaguer. That is baseball, and as marvelous as it is… like life, it isn’t fair.
If Matt Ternowchek is the beneficiary of a ball/strike call, Hess never homers in the 5th. If a fly ball is caught instead of being dropped in the first inning Friday night, perhaps the whole series takes on a different tone. Twice this weekend, Pitt started the runners on 1st and 2nd and hit line drives for hits. If those line drives, find gloves….
If, if, if…it’s the two-letter word so often used by the losing team, and forgotten by the winner. When you have a loss, you dwell on those ifs. When you get a win, you pack the bag, and move on to the next one.
Nothing accelerates faster than confidence and momentum, no matter which way they are going. Right now, they’re going downhill for the Irish. Eight days ago, Notre Dame was 19-9, and a five-game skid seemed unfathomable. Eight days from now, they could be 24-14, and this will be a distant memory.
How do you turn things around? That’s what Aoki and the Irish have to figure out. It may be as close as the next bloop, flare or Texas Leaguer. It may be as close as the ball was to Kustulis’ glove.
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