After an up and down pair of midweek games, the Hoos will look to right the ACC ship this weekend in South Bend after dropping the last two weekend series.
UVa and Notre Dame don't have much of a history on the diamond. The two have not seen each other since the 1996 Alabama regional, where UVa lost the first game of the regional to Notre Dame, but rebounded with three straight wins including a 7-1 victory over the Fighting Irish. The only other previous meeting was a 1991 series in Charlottesville that UVa won two games to one.
As most of you likely know, Brian O'Connor does have a significant history with Notre Dame. Coach O'Connor coached in South Bend under now-LSU head Coach Paul Mainieri from 1994-2003 and helped lead the pitching staff to Notre Dame's second trip to the College World Series in 2002. Ultimately, O'Connor left his Associate Head Coach's position to come to Charlottesville.
A brief look into the history of the Notre Dame program shows that the Fighting Irish were on track to become a national power until Coach Mainieri left for LSU in 2006. They had just made NCAA tournament appearances every year from 1999 to 2006, won the Big East tournament five straight seasons, and made the aforementioned trip to Omaha in 2002. After he left, the team has fallen off compiling a 229-215-2 record from 2007-2014 with no NCAA Tournament appearances.
This season, Notre Dame has been on a roller coaster ride during ACC play. Before conference play started, the Fighting Irish had a 10-1 record. Since, they've gone 6-7 with a road series loss at Georgia Tech, a road series win at Clemson, then were swept last weekend by Louisville bringing their ACC record to 3-6, which is good for 6th in the Atlantic Division, ahead of only 1-7 Boston College.
Although they're batting .258 as a team, they are lead by former UVa commit Cavan Biggio, who is batting .345 and also leading the team in slugging (.563) and runs scored (23). The Sophomore infielder is also 7-7 in stole bases, so limiting his time will be a key.
Although they do strike out quite a bit (175 Ks), the team also appears to be very patient at the plate and has earned their fair share of free bases (97 BB - 26 HBP). UVa's control struggles have been well documented, and pitching to contact will be more than necessary this weekend.
Notre Dame's pitching has put up decent numbers, but nothing earth shattering. They have a 3.18 ERA which puts them at about the middle of the ACC. However, they don't strike out many, and give up nearly a hit per inning. Their 1.31 WHIP is not terribly impressive either. One of their standouts has been their closer, Peter Solomon. The Freshman right-hander has 4 saves in 9 appearances, including 2 wins. He's also given up only 3 runs in 19 innings and has 19 strikeouts to go along.
This young UVa team needs a good weekend desperately. I imagine losing back to back weekends was a rude awakening for most who likely haven't been on a losing team in quite sometime. I also doubt many of them expected to come to UVa and lose like they have. I expect this weekend will be huge in determining how the rest of the season could play out.