Aug. 17, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Chuck Ristano, Notre Dame’s volunteer coach each of the last two seasons, has been promoted to assistant baseball coach, head coach Mik Aoki announced Friday. Ristano will continue to serve as the Irish pitching coach.
“Chuck has been an incredible asset to this program over the last couple of years,” said Aoki. “He is one of the top pitching coaches in all of college baseball, bar none. This program is incredibly fortunate to have his services and I can’t begin to describe my excitement knowing that he will remain a part of this program for years to come.”
“I am extremely excited and thankful to move into a full-time role on Coach Aoki’s staff,” said Ristano. “Notre Dame is a very special place. I am reminded of the fact everyday due in part to the types of people that fill our roster, coaching staff and support staff. I believe strongly in our University’s vision both athletically and academically. I’m thrilled to get back on the road in a recruiting capacity and eager to get the fall underway.”
Ristano has made a significant impact on the Notre Dame pitching staff over the last two seasons. Here are just a couple of the impressive improvements:
- Notre Dame has posted back-to-back seasons with fewer than 3.00 walks per nine innings for the first time in school history.
- The Irish have registered back-to-back seasons with a strikeout-to-walk ratio above 2.50 for the first time in school history.
- Notre Dame has recorded back-to-back seasons with an ERA sub-4.00 for the first time since the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
- The Irish led the BIG EAST in fewest walks per nine innings in 2011 (2.67) and 2012 (2.81). Each of the totals ranks among the top five in single-season school history.
- It is even more impressive when you consider Notre Dame averaged 3.65 walks per nine innings in 2010 and 3.73 per nine innings combined in 2009 and 2010. The 3.82 free passes per nine innings in 2009 are the highest for an Irish staff since 1999.
- Four Irish pitchers have been drafted and two more have sign professional contracts.
In 2012, Ristano played a vital role in the development of first-year starter Will Hudgins, who was eventually drafted in the 22nd round of the MLB draft by the Washington Nationals.
Hudgins was named all-BIG EAST second team following his only season as a starting pitcher. He made 63 appearances over his first three years at Notre Dame, all out of the bullpen, but moved into the weekend rotation in 2012 and excelled. Hudgins went 5-3 with a 2.06 ERA. He was the first Irish starter to complete a season with an ERA in the neighborhood of 2.00 since David Phelps, now a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, posted a 1.88 ERA in 2007. He struck out 90 and walked 24 in 96.1 innings of work. Hudgins limited his opponents to a .233 batting average.
In addition to leading the BIG EAST in ERA and fewest earned runs allowed (22), Hudgins ranked tied for fourth in strikeouts (90), seventh in opponents batting average and eighth in innings pitched. He collected nine quality starts and pitched into the seventh inning in eight of his 15 outings. Hudgins allowed one earned run or less in 10 of his last 14 outings and two earned runs or less in 12 of his 15 starts on the year.
In his first year at Notre Dame, Ristano guided an Irish pitching staff that proved to be one of the elite in the BIG EAST. Notre Dame finished 2011 with a 3.42 ERA (down from 5.95 in 2010), which was the best by an Irish staff since 2004 (3.36). Notre Dame actually took a 2.82 ERA into the final week of the regular season, which would have been the lowest by an Irish club since 1960 (2.60, school record) and ranked 15th in the NCAA at the time.
Notre Dame’s starting pitchers registered a quality start (pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs) in 33 of 53 games for the Irish. The 33 quality starts is even more impressive when you consider Notre Dame totaled 11 in 2010. The Irish owned a 2.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which was light-years better than the total of 1.73 from `10. Notre Dame led the BIG EAST in fewest walks by a large margin. The Irish walked only 143 batters in 481.2 innings, good for a 2.67 average per nine innings – slightly off the school record for fewest walks per nine innings (2.48 in 2001), but still ranked third all-time.
The Irish pitching staff ranked first or second in the conference in sacrifice bunts allowed, walks allowed, hit batters allowed, runs allowed, earned runs allowed, wild pitches allowed and balks allowed.
Notre Dame’s 2011 starting rotation of Brian Dupra, Cole Johnson, Todd Miller, Anthony McIver and Adam Norton averaged 6.38 innings per start. In fact, Dupra, Johnson and Miller averaged 6.52 innings per start on weekends. Notre Dame’s starting pitchers averaged only 4.73 innings per start in 2010. They combined for 25 starts of at least 7.0 innings. The Irish managed only seven such starts the year prior to Ristano’s arrival. Notre Dame was the only school in the conference that had two pitchers ranked among the top 10 in innings pitched (Dupra and Johnson). The duo also ranked ranked eighth and 12th, respectively, in the BIG EAST in ERA.
Notre Dame’s bullpen did not disappoint either, especially in BIG EAST action. The Irish bullpen posted a 2.08 ERA in 73.2 innings. It owned a 7-4 record and seven saves in league play. The bullpen struck out 43 and walked 20. Notre Dame opponents’ batted just .230 against the bullpen in BIG EAST games. The pen surrendered two home runs and 12 total extra-base hits in 26 league games.
Ristano acted as the recruiting coordinator and pitching coach at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. for four seasons (2006-09). He not only directed all phases of recruitment, but also was responsible for the development of off-season throwing and conditioning programs. Ristano coordinated study hall and all travel plans, and even assisted in numerous fundraising activities. He placed players in a number of top-level summer collegiate leagues.
Ristano helped guide the Hawks to the conference title and automatic NCAA bid in 2007 and 2009. Monmouth won 30 or more games in three of his four seasons on staff, including a school-record 37 victories in 2008. The Hawks appeared in the 2007 Tempe Regional and 2009 Oxford Regional.
Ristano also recruited and tutored three pitchers selected in the Major League Baseball draft, including Ryan Buch and Brett Brach, who were selected in the eighth and tenth round, respectively, in the 2009 MLB Draft. In total, eight of his recruits eventually signed professional baseball contracts.
Under Ristano’s guidance, seven pitchers earned all-conference honors, four earned all-region honors and four more were named TPX All-Americans, including Brach, who was the 2007 NEC Pitcher of the Year.
In his first season at Monmouth (2006), Ristano’s pitching staff ranked eighth nationally in earned-run average (3.34), setting a school record. In 2008, his staff posted a 3.99 ERA, as the Hawks joined 11 other teams to finish in the NCAA top 20 in ERA in two of the previous three seasons. In 2007, his staff set a school record with 374 strikeouts.
During his four seasons at the school, Monmouth posted a 132-89 record and compiled a team ERA of 4.35. The Hawks led the NEC in ERA in 2006, finished second each of the other three years and led the conference in strikeouts twice.
In 2005, Ristano served as pitching coach at his alma mater Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. He tutored both first team all-conference pitchers, including the league’s pitcher of the year, and helped the Pioneers to their first ever NEC Tournament appearance.
Ristano, who spent the 2010 season as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Temple University, was a four-year letterwinner at Sacred Heart (2001-04). He was a two-time captain and four-time NEC All-Academic Team honoree. Ristano graduated with a B.S. degree in sports management in 2004.
— ND —