Dec. 16, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After playing only six games at the friendly confines of Frank Eck Stadium last season due to FieldTurf installation, the University of Notre Dame baseball team is returning home in a big way in 2015 with a monster home slate that features Atlantic Coast Conference series against four 2014 NCAA Tournament teams including College World Series participants Louisville and Virginia.
“We are obviously really excited to finally play at our home facility for an entire season,” head coach Mik Aoki says. “The conference slate is really good. Teams that are coming in feature two College World Series participants and are some really brand-name teams. So that’s really exciting. Our non-conference schedule features a lot of the regional rivalries we have. We are starting to get a sense of conference realignment with a team like Sacramento State coming into town. That’s a direct result of conference realignment. And we also have a Southern team in Northwestern State coming in. So we are really pleased and excited about our schedule for this year.”
The Irish are slated to play 56 games and one exhibition contest in 2015, with 26 set for Frank Eck Stadium. ACC home contests include 2014 College World Series participant and former BIG EAST foe Louisville (March 20-22), 2014 College World Series runner-up Virginia (March 27-29), 2014 NCAA Tournament team Florida State (April 10-12), 2013 College World Series participant NC State (April 17-19) and 2014 NCAA Tournament team North Carolina (May 8-10).
In its off ACC weekend, Notre Dame welcomes in Northwestern State for a three-game series May 1-3.
Non-conference midweek home games include local South Bend squad Bethel (March 17) in the home opener, Mid-American Conference opponents Central Michigan (March 18), Eastern Michigan (March 31) and Toledo (April 15), Horizon League team and in-state foe Valparaiso (April 8), Western Athletic Conference opponent Chicago State (April 22), Big Ten foe Michigan State (April 28) and 2014 NCAA Tournament team and Big Sky Conference member Sacramento State (April 29).
The Irish kick off the new season in Norman, Oklahoma Feb. 13, as they meet SIU-Edwardsville in a single game, before opening a three-game series against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma (Feb. 13-15).
“With the way our schedule has been playing out with the two tournaments in San Antonio and Cary, it gives us the one weekend to explore and do some different things,” Aoki says. “I’m excited about being able to go to Oklahoma. They have a great facility and they have a program that has a lot of tradition. It will be a great test for us to start the season.”
A pair of annual home away from home tournaments are back in 2015 and are played in back-to-back weekends after Oklahoma.
First up, Notre Dame welcomes Incarnate Word, Villanova and Northwestern to San Antonio, Texas for the traditional round-robin tourney at Nelson Wolff Stadium Feb. 19-22.
“We are always excited to get to San Antonio,” Aoki says. “It’s a wonderful city and a unique opportunity for our team to connect with our host families that welcome us year after year. I don’t think anyone else in college baseball has a similar relationship with a city like that and I think it is really a special one.”
The next week, the Irish are in Cary, North Carolina at the impressive USA Baseball National Training Complex for the third annual USA Baseball-Irish Classic. This year, Notre Dame plays East Carolina, Seattle and Penn State Feb. 27-March 1.
“Our relationship with USA Baseball is trending in the same direction as San Antonio,” Aoki says. “We have a solid field this year and are excited about this relationship that we’ve begun to form with our sport’s governing body and the town of Cary.”
In addition to the impressive ACC home slate, league road series include reigning ACC Tournament champion and NCAA Tournament qualifier Georgia Tech (March 6-8), 2014 NCAA Tournament team Clemson (March 13-15), Pittsburgh (April 3-5), Wake Forest (April 24-26) and Boston College (April 14-16).
Mid-week, non-conference road games include Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference squad Savannah State (March 11), Horizon League team Illinois-Chicago (March 24), 2014 NCAA Tournament team, 2013 College World Series qualifier and in-state opponent Indiana in Indianapolis (April 21) and MAC school Western Michigan (May 12).
The only other game on the 2015 schedule is an exhibition contest with the South Bend Cubs, the Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, at Four Winds Field in South Bend April 7.
This year’s 10-team ACC Tournament is slated for May 19-24 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (Triple A affiliate – Rays) in Durham, North Carolina. The NCAA Regionals would be the following week (May 29-June 1) with the NCAA Super Regionals (June 5-8) and the College World Series (June 13-24) wrapping up the 2015 college baseball season.
With the opening pitch of the new year, Notre Dame (22-31, 9-21 ACC in 2014) will be looking to improve upon a tough 2014 season that saw the Irish lose 18 games by two runs or less, including 13 by just a single run. Notre Dame only lost three veterans off the 2014 roster, as senior pitchers Sean Fitzgerald and Donnie Hissa graduated and junior pitcher Pat Connaughton was drafted in last June’s Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.
A wealth of experience returns on offense and in the field, as 12 players that started 21 or more games for the Irish a year ago are back in the Notre Dame blue and gold this season. The Irish also brought in eight freshmen, including six pitchers, that should be able to contribute early in 2015.
QUICK SCHEDULE TIDBITS:
- In the season-opening series against Oklahoma, Irish head coach Mik Aoki will go up against fellow Davidson College alum and fellow former Boston College head coach Pete Hughes, the second-year head coach with the Sooners. Hughes and Aoki both graduated from Davidson in 1990, and Aoki served under Hughes for three seasons at BC before Hughes took the Virginia Tech job and Aoki was elevated to head coach of the Eagles.
- After the artificial surface was completed, the Irish went 5-1 at Frank Eck Stadium last year, taking two-of-three from Clemson before sweeping Pitt to end the season on a high note.
- First-time ACC opponents this season are Georgia Tech, Louisville, Virginia and North Carolina. The Irish played Clemson, Pitt, Florida State, NC State, Wake Forest and Boston College last year. Notre Dame will miss Miami, Virginia Tech and Duke this season after playing them a year ago.
- After playing four “home” games and a true road game at Chicago State’s Cougar Stadium last season during the Eck artificial surface installation, the Cougars will make the trip to Notre Dame this season (April 22).
- Last year, games against Illinois-Chicago, Michigan State and Eastern Michigan were all canceled due to weather. This year, all three teams are back on the schedule. The Irish will play host to the Spartans (April 28) and the Eagles (March 31), but will travel to the Flames (March 24).
- Aoki will make his first trip back to Boston College this year since leading the program from 2007-10. Last year, the Irish took two-of-three from the Eagles in Chicago.
- Notre Dame will play in-state foe Indiana for the first time since 1998 on April 21 in Indianapolis at Victory Field, home of the Triple A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- The exhibition against the South Bend minor league franchise is the first since 2010. The Irish played the then South Bend Silver Hawks from 2008-2010. The franchise changed hands in the winter and went from being part of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system to residing in the Chicago Cubs organization.
- Notre Dame will play eight teams that qualified for last year’s NCAA Tournament – ACC foes Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia, Florida State and North Carolina and non-conference opponents Indiana and Sacramento State.
- The Irish will play five opponents for the first time in 2015 – SIU-Edwardsville, East Carolina, Savannah State, Sacramento State and Northwestern State.
- When Virginia comes to town for a three-game ACC series, it will be a return to Frank Eck Stadium for Cavaliers’ head coach Brian O’Connor, who was an assistant under legendary Irish coach Paul Mainieri from 1995-2003 and helped the Irish put together one of the best runs in school history that included six conference championships, six appearances in the NCAA Tournament, a 399-160-1 record and a trip to the 2002 College World Series.
- Notre Dame is slated to play 56 regular season games, one exhibition contest, 26 home games, 21 true road contests and nine neutral site affairs in 2015.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director