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Irish Help Strikeout ALS in Sweep of Bobcats

Apr 23, 2013, 9:03 AM EDT

Trey Mancini (photo by Kaitlyn Kiely)

The Fighting Irish did what they had to do this weekend, sweeping the Quinnipiac Bobcats to end their season-high six-game losing streak. The Irish got back on track on Saturday, sweeping an afternoon doubleheader from the Bobcats. While these wins were key for the struggling Irish, they carried even more meaning for Coach Mik Aoki and his team.

In game two of the Saturday doubleheader, Notre Dame and Quinnipiac joined forces to help Strikeout ALS. All proceeds raised from the game went to the Pete Frates #3 Fund for ALS Research. Frates was a former player under Head Coach Mik Aoki during his days at Boston College, as well as a teammate of Jason Delaney, the brother of Quinnipiac assistant coach John Delaney.

Frates was diagnosed with ALS in March 2012. The disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, became well-known when the New York Yankee legend’s career was cut short by its debilitating effects. Unfortunately, despite over eighty years of research, efforts to combat ALS have failed and the disease becomes fatal within a few years.

However, despite his grim diagnosis, Pete Frates has remained a strong example of determination and inspiration for all who have heard his story. Among those most affected by Frates’ incredible strength is his former coach. In between games of the doubleheader, Coach Aoki was able to appear on the sideline of the Blue-Gold Spring Game to talk about the Pete Frates #3 Fund to a live national television audience.

“It’s really personal for me, and I want to thank everybody who came out,” Coach Aoki said of the Strikeout ALS game. “I want to thank the local radio and television stations, the local papers, and NBC for giving me an opportunity to get out there during the game to talk about it. I’m deeply appreciative of it, and I know that the Frates family is incredibly appreciative. It means a lot to me, and I’m glad that we were able to do it.”

The Irish sported special red hats during the game to honor all those affected by ALS. Pete’s father, John Frates, was in attendance and threw out the first pitch of game two to Assistant Coach Jesse Woods.

On the field, the Irish were able to get back to business to help right the ship, winning game one with a score of 9-6. The Irish grabbed three runs in both the first and second innings to take an early 6-0 lead. The Bobcats cut the deficit down to 7-6 with four runs in the seventh, but a two-RBI single from Ryan Bull gave the Irish a couple insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. Junior Dan Slania came on in the ninth to record his eighth save of season, while sophomore Pat Connaughton (1-2) picked up his first win of the year.

In game two, senior starter Adam Norton (8-1) got back to his early season form, pitching his second complete-game shutout of the year to lead the Irish to a 6-0 victory. Norton struck out nine batters, while walking only one and allowing five hits. Juniors Eric Jagielo and Trey Mancini paced the offense with two RBI each. The dynamic duo combined for 10 RBI in Saturday’s doubleheader. Coach Aoki was pleased with his team’s performance in the two games.

“I thought we were a little sloppy in the first game. I thought maybe a little complacency set in after we jumped on them early, but I thought we did a nice job of not losing our composure late in the game,” Coach Aoki said. “The second game was extremely clean. Like almost anything in baseball, it seems to always start with your starting pitcher, and Norto [Adam Norton] was obviously outstanding.”

Notre Dame completed the series sweep on Sunday, with a 5-1 win behind a strong start from junior Sean Fitzgerald (2-3), who allowed just one run over 7.0 innings. Bull was 2-2 with 2 RBI to lead the Irish offense.

The Irish are now 22-15 on the season, and 4-8 in the BIG EAST. The three-game sweep was a great response from a team that has caught some bad breaks over the past two weeks.

“That losing streak was difficult because I don’t think that we necessarily played poorly. In some ways, losing like that can be a little more frustrating than when you just played bad,” Aoki said. “It was nice to see us swing the bats and get some hits with runners in scoring position. We played it cleanly in the second game in particular, and just played with a great tempo that was much more reminiscent of how we played earlier this season.”

The team can look to keep the good vibes going this week with games against Toledo and Michigan State on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The Irish then have a key BIG EAST series this weekend against Connecticut at Frank Eck Stadium. If the Irish are looking to make up some ground in the conference before the end of the season, now is the perfect time to make their move.

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