Dec. 6, 2003
The Notre Dame baseball team again will face plenty of challenges during the 2004 season, with early-season tournaments at USC and Florida Atlantic followed by another Spring Break swing through the state of Texas for tournaments at minor-league facilities in San Antonio and Round Rock. The home schedule includes games versus some of the top BIG EAST contenders, led by series versus Boston College, Rutgers and Virginia Tech (plus a top non-conference series vs. Central Florida).
The Irish will open their 56-game regular season in the third week of February, with sophomore rightfielder Cody Rizzo set to return to his home area for the USC Classic. The Friday-Sunday format includes games versus San Diego State (Feb. 20), USC (Feb. 21) and future BIG EAST team Louisville (Feb. 22).
The next week will find the Irish on the other coast, in another potential homecoming for Florida natives such as senior catcher/infielder Javi Sanchez, junior righthander Chris Niesel, sophomore outfielder Brennan Grogan and freshman lefthander Matt Whittington. Notre Dame’s slate at the FAU Classic includes matchups with Winthrop (Feb. 27), the host Owls (Feb. 29) and a leap-day game versus Midwest rival Minnesota (Feb. 29).
Notre Dame will be heading to Texas for the 15th time in the last 21 seasons, playing at the same two sites as during the 2002 College World Series season. The destinations will be flipped during this year’s Spring Break trip, with action starting in the hometown of freshman righthander Jeff Manship as Notre Dame again will play host to the Irish Baseball Classic at double-A Wolff Stadium in San Antonio. The field includes Southern Illinois (March 6), Texas-San Antonio (March 7) and Penn State (March 8), with the consolation and championship games set for March 9.
After bidding farewell to its host families, Notre Dame will make the short drive to Round Rock to compete with a talented field at Dell Diamond in the Round Rock Express College Classic (home of Nolan Ryan’s double-A Astros affiliate). A familiar opponent from previous games in the Lone Star state will be awaiting in the opener, when the Irish face Penn State (March 11) – followed by a rematch from the 2003 NCAAs vs. Arizona (March 12) and two more tough games vs. Texas Tech (March 13) and Illinois (March 14).
Notre Dame will complete playing its first 16 games on the road with a pair at Southern Illinois (March 20-21) before a home opener on Wed., March 24, versus Detroit.
Highlights of the 26-game home schedule include a BIG EAST doubleheader vs. Boston College (April 10) and a pair of top three-game series to end the conference schedule versus Rutgers (March 14-15) and Virginia Tech (March 22-23). A quality non-conference opponent also will make the long trip to Eck Stadium late in the season, with the Irish to face Central Florida (whose AD is former ND football player Steve Orsini) on March 18-19.
Other home BIG EAST home games include a series with Villanova (March 3-4) and a doubleheader versus St. John’s on the Monday after Easter (April 12). Notre Dame’s other non-conference dates at Eck Stadium include several familiar Midwest teams – including a Toledo squad coached by former ND player and assistant Cory Mee (April 21) – plus: Western Michigan (March 31), Chicago State (April 6), Valparaiso (April 7), Oakland (April 14), Purdue (April 20), Ball State (April 27), Cleveland State (April 28), Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne (April 30), Bowling Green (May 11).
The BIG EAST road schedule includes a series at West Virginia on the first week of league play (March 27-28), plus a series versus Georgetown at Povich Field in Bethesda, Md. (April 17-18), a strange doubleheader swing through Seton Hall (April 23) and Pittsburgh (April 25), and a series at Connecticut (May 8-9).
Notre Dame and Michigan are slated to play in Grand Rapids for the ninth time in the last 10 years, returning to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark (one of the nation’s top single-A parks) for a Wednesday-night game on May 12.
The four-team, double-elimination BIG EAST Championship again will be held at Commerce Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J. (May 27-29).
The 64-team NCAA Championship opens with 16 four-team, double-elimination Regionals on campus sites (June 4-6), followed by best 2-of-3 Super-Regional series on June 11-13. The College World Series will be held June 18-28 at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium.