Through 10 seasons at the University of Notre Dame, Chuck Ristano has produced 17 Major League draft picks on the mound, a team ERA under 4.00 in six seasons and nine all-conference selections from the pitching staff. He led Irish hurlers to three consecutive seasons with a walks per nine innings rate lower than 3.00 for the first time in program history.
During the 2020 season, Ristano’s staff was one of the toughest to get hits against in the country during the shortened season. The team finished the year with a .158 opponent batting average and led the ACC in hits allowed with 77, which was 25 less than the second place team in the league (GT – 102). The Irish pitchers led the ACC and ranked seventh nationally in hits allowed per nine innings (5.85).
Ristano guided junior Tommy Vail to his best season as an Irish after being named to the preseason NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List. Vail had the lowest ERA (2.08) among Irish hurlers that threw at least eight innings during the year and finished second on the staff with 17.1 innings pitched. Vail tied Tommy Sheehan with the team lead in wins (3) while leading the team with 24 strikeouts.
Vail finished second in the NCAA in WHIP with a 0.46 mark after allowing just five hits and three walks on the season. Vail led the ACC in hits allowed with five and finished second in walks allowed (2) and opponent batting average (.086).
In the 2019 season, Ristano guided Cameron Junker and Shane Combs to career seasons and both got selected in the MLB Draft. Junker was drafted in the 10th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Combs was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 31st round. During the summer, Ristano was an assistant coach with the USA Baseball U17 Developmental Team which played games at Notre Dame, Wrigley Field and Miller Park.
Ristano’s arms helped Notre Dame set a new standard in the 2017 MLB Draft. Five of his pitchers were selected in the draft, with three of them (Peter Solomon, Sean Guenther and Brad Bass) going in the first seven rounds. It marked the most selections over the first seven rounds in school history and the third time Notre Dame has produced three picks in the opening 10 rounds of a single draft. All five of the Irish pitchers selected were juniors, who improved upon their selections out of high school.
The 2016 campaign saw a pair of Irish pitchers finish among the top six in the ACC and top 30 nationally in ERA, with Michael Hearne’s 1.77 ERA ranking third and Brandon Bielak sixth at 2.10. Additionally, Hearne ranked fourth in the league in WHIP at 0.97 and Peter Solomon posted a strikeouts per nine innings mark of 11.08 to rank third in the league.
As the Irish returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, Ristano’s pitching staff played a major role led by ace Ryan Smoyer who posted a 9-1 mark and 2.27 ERA to earn third team All-ACC honors. The young staff also saw Brad Bass (1.91 ERA) and Sean Guenther (2.72 ERA) collect Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America accolades.
Ristano’s staff helped the Irish navigate their first season in the ACC, posting a team ERA of 3.05 during the 2014 campaign. That mark ranked third in the conference as Notre Dame debuted in the ACC while playing just six games at Frank Eck Stadium due to construction delays during installation of a new playing field.
A pair of Irish pitchers earned All-BIG EAST honors in 2013. Dan Slania led the league in ERA (1.21) and saves (13), while Adam Norton was third nationally with three shutouts. The previous year, Will Hudgins led the BIG EAST with a 2.06 ERA.
Ristano’s impact was immediate in his first season (2011), which saw improvements from the year before in ERA (down to 3.42 from 5.95), quality starts (up to 33 from 11) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (up to 2.57 from 1.73).
Before joining the staff at Notre Dame, Ristano spent four seasons as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Monmouth University in New Jersey. There he helped the Hawks to Northeast Conference titles and NCAA regional bids in 2007 and 2009. Three of his Monmouth pitchers were drafted, while a total of eight signed professional contracts, including 2007 NEC Pitcher of the Year Brad Brach. His 2006 staff set a Monmouth record with a 3.34 ERA which ranked eighth nationally, while his 2007 staff set the school benchmark for strikeouts at 374.
Ristano has also spent time as pitching coach at Sacred Heart and Temple. He was a two-time captain and four-year letterwinner at Sacred Heart (2001-04), where he also was a four-time NEC All-Academic honoree. He graduated from SHU with a degree in sports management in 2004.
Ristano and his wife, Notre Dame softball associate coach Lizzie (Lemire) Ristano, reside in Granger with their daughter, Jane and son, CJ.
Irish Pitchers In The Draft
- Brian Dupra
- Cole Johnson
- Will Hudgins
- Steve Sabatino
- Joe Spano
- Dan Slania
- Donnie Hissa
- Pat Connaughton
- Peter Solomon
- Sean Guenther
- Brad Bass
- Brandon Bielak
- Evy Ruibal
- Matt Vierling
- Cameron Junker
- Shane Combs
- Joe Boyle
Irish All-Conference Pitchers
- 2011: Brian Dupra (3rd)
- 2012: Dan Slania (2nd), Will Hudgins (2nd)
- 2013: Adam Norton (1st), Dan Slania (2nd)
- 2015: Ryan Smoyer (3rd), Brandon Bielak (Freshman), Sean Guenther (Freshman)
- 2016: Matt Vierling (Freshman)
- 2017: Matt Vierling (3rd)