|Notre Dame (0-0) vs. Arizona State (0-0)|
|When:|| Friday, Feb. 15 | 8:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, Feb. 16 | 8:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Feb. 17 | 2:30 p.m. ET
|Where:||Phoenix, Ariz. | Phoenix Municipal Stadium|
|Watch:||Pac-12 Network Plus (Saturday (2/16) and (2/17) Sunday Games)|
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After one month from the start of spring practices, the University of Notre Dame baseball team is one day away from the season opener of the 2019 campaign. The 2019 Fighting Irish are a mix of experience and youth and looking to make some noise in the always tough Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Really excited for the season to get underway,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “We have a very balanced group this season. We have some big shoes to fill in the lineup and defensively but bring back a majority of our pitching staff that gained valuable experience last year.”
“Offensively, we bring back a good nucleus of offensive players with Eric Gilgenbach, Daniel Jung and Niko Kavadas,” stated Aoki. “Those guys will provide a presence in the middle of the lineup and lead our offense throughout the season.”
Gilgenbach was named a team captain this season and he is the most experienced hitter returning for the Irish. The senior outfielder led the Irish with 45 RBI, tied for the team lead with 10 home runs and will be a tough out for any pitcher this season.
Kavadas is another key offensive returner for the Irish. The local product from Granger, Indiana had a strong freshman season last year. He hit .290 last season and added five home runs and 20 RBI over 47 games played.
Jung rounds out the middle of the order for the Irish. The first baseman played in all but one game last season and made 44 starts. The lefty batted .274 on the year and was second on the team with 13 doubles on the year. Defensively, Jung boasted a .986 fielding percentage at first base.
Newcomers looking to make an immediate impact for the Irish are junior transfer Ethan Copeland and freshman Carter Putz.
On the mound, the Irish bring back a number of pitchers who saw action during the 2018 season. In total, nine of 10 pitchers who logged at least 20 innings last season will return for the Irish.
“I feel great about the development the pitchers have made from last season,” said Aoki. “A number of our pitchers last season made their collegiate debuts and it showed at times throughout the year. They did earn valuable experience on the mound that will help them out this season and going forward.”
Junior Cameron Brown and sophomore Tommy Sheehan look to lead the Irish in the rotation during 2019. Last season, the pair threw over 100 innings each and combined to make 20 starts.
Brown joins Gilgenbach as the other captain for the 2019 season and looks to build off his sophomore campaign. The soutthpaw made 18 appearances last year and tossed 58 innings while picking up two wins against Kent State and Virginia Tech.
Sheehan is another experienced arm returning for the Irish as he tied for the team lead with 14 starts in his freshman season. The lefty’s first career start came on the road at Alex Box Stadium against No. 9 LSU where he picked up his first career win after working five innings in a 10-5 Notre Dame win.
Juniors Cameron Junker and Zack Martin look to round out the rotation for the Irish. Martin made six starts last season and logged 43 innings while Junker made nine starts over 35 innings.
In the bullpen, Andrew Belcik, Joe Boyle and Cole Kmet will be tasked in closing the door for the Irish in 2019.
Belcik was one of the best relievers for Notre Dame in 2018. The junior right-hander made 33 appearances last year and tallied three saves over 45.2 innings pitched. The 33 appearances were the second most in school history during one season..
Kmet was the closer in 2018 and had a strong freshman campaign out of the bullpen. Kmet picked up eight saves throughout the year and made his first career start later in the season against Virginia Tech. His eight saves were the ninth-most by an Irish player in one season.
Boyle is another live arm the Irish will have coming out of the bullpen in 2019. After making eight appearances for Notre Dame in 2018, Boyle had a great summer with the Kalamazoo Wranglers. He struck out 16 batters over eight innings of work and hit triple digits in multiple appearances. After the summer, Boyle was named a top prospect from the Northwoods League by D1Baseball, Baseball America and Perfect Game.