May 25, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. —For the first time since 2006, the No. 23 University of Notre Dame baseball team has qualified for the NCAA Regionals, as the Irish were placed in the Champaign, Illinois Regional to face off with the No. 6 national seed Illinois Fighting Illini, Wright State and Ohio.
Notre Dame (36-21) will kick off its first NCAA Regional in nine years at 1 p.m. (ET) Friday against the No. 3 seed Wright State Raiders (41-15). The Illini (47-8-1) will then meet the Ohio Bobcats (36-19) in the late game at 8 p.m. (ET). The two winners will meet Saturday for a berth in Sunday’s championship game, while the two losers will begin the task of working their way through the loser’s bracket.
Wright State won the Horizon League championship Saturday, while Ohio claimed the MAC title Sunday afternoon. Illinois, who won a Big Ten record 27 games in a row earlier this year, went 2-2 at the Big Ten Tournament this past weekend.
After a tough 2014 campaign that saw the Irish go 22-31 overall, the program put together quite a resume in 2015 that featured sweeps of perennial Atlantic Coast Conference powers Florida State and North Carolina, series wins over NCAA Regional teams Clemson and NC State and a 21-10 record away from Frank Eck Stadium among other noteworthy achievements. The Irish went 1-2 in pool play this past week at the ACC Tournament in Durham, North Carolina.
Upon hearing their name called Monday afternoon, mass celebration broke out among the Irish players, coaches and support staff.
“It means a lot,” said head coach Mik Aoki on seeing his program’s name on the screen. “Playing in the postseason and playing in the NCAA Tournament are things we feel like Notre Dame should be able to accomplish. It’s taken a little bit of time. We knocked on the door in 2013 and went a little bit backwards last year but I think in a lot of ways going backwards last year helped us get to where we are this year. We are looking forward to the challenge. Illinois has had a phenomenal season and with Wright State and Ohio you have two conference tournament winners, so we are playing against teams that know how to win and expect to win. It will be a great challenge for our group.”
“It’s really special,” said sophomore RHP Ryan Smoyer on adding another year to the board in right field that lists the program’s NCAA Tournament teams. “We see that board every day. We have gone through so much as a team and we have grown together. We are so close. The family culture we have created here is unlike anything I’ve been apart of. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to continue that for however many more weeks it is. From this moment on it’s just an opportunity to go out and keep playing.”
More information on the Champaign Regional will be released in the coming days.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director