Head coach Mik Aoki begins his second season at the helm of the Notre Dame baseball team when the Fighting Irish open the 2012 campaign at 1 p.m. (ET) Friday against Illinois in the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Irish Baseball Opens Practice

Jan. 28, 2011

camera.gifBaseball 1st Day – Short Feature

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame baseball squad began official team practice for the 2011 campaign inside Loftus Center this evening. The Irish will conduct three weeks of team practice sessions before opening its season in Dunedin, Fla., at 4 p.m. ET against Michigan State on Feb. 18.

“We were excited to get started to say the least,” said Mik Aoki, who begins his inaugural season as Irish head coach. “We have a solid core group of returning players and plenty of new faces, both of which are ready to get the season underway.”

Notre Dame practiced for nearly three hours. The Irish spent the first hour of practice separated into position groups. The pitching staff worked on pickoffs, the catchers concentrated on blocking and the outfielders focused on fly balls.

The catchers and outfielders each benefitted from the newest piece of equipment, the FungoMan. The machine can throw any kind of ball to any position on the field using a state-of-the-art positioning system that allows balls to be thrown every three to five seconds. With the use of a wireless controller, the machine can be controlled from anywhere on the field. The Irish were able to use one with the backstops, programming pitches to bounce out in front of home plate, while another threw all types of fly balls.

Notre Dame also held an intra-squad scrimmage for the final two hours of practice.

“Overall, I thought today went relatively well,” said Aoki. “We really need the next three weeks of practice to get ready, but overall I was pretty pleased. We will continue to emphasize tempo, tempo, tempo. Our pace of play, both within the actual game, as well as in and out of innings, needs to improve. It will be a backbone of our program.”

Notre Dame returns 21 monogram winners, five position starters and two of its weekend starting pitchers. The Irish will also welcome 10 newcomers this spring, the largest recruiting class in recent memory.

The 2011 schedule will include early-season trips to Florida, Washington, South Carolina and Texas along with BIG EAST road series at Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Rutgers and Louisville. The slate also features the third annual BIG EAST-Big Ten Baseball Challenge, hosted by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission.

Notre Dame’s five BIG EAST home series will include games versus Georgetown, Connecticut, West Virginia, Seton Hall and USF. The Irish will also host Michigan State and play a home-and-home series with Michigan, while the midweek games at Frank Eck Stadium will feature some of Notre Dame’s traditional non-conference rivals, most notably UIC, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Toledo.

In all, Notre Dame will play 11 games (St. John’s, Coastal Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville and Kent State) against teams that reached the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

Season tickets will also be available. Full season packages are $50 per person for adults and $30 per person for youth/senior, while four-ticket “Fan Packs” are $120 for individuals. Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students, faculty and staff are admitted free for all regular-season home games with valid ID at Eck Stadium.

— ND —