Dec. 10, 2005

The Notre Dame baseball team has announced its schedule for the 2006 season, with highlights to include early-season trips to Tennessee, Minnesota and Texas, a three-game series at BIG EAST newcomer South Florida and challenging home BIG EAST series vs. four of the league’s top teams (Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Rutgers and Louisville).

See the schedule link for the full 56-game listing (also check back later to for a PDF version of the ’06 schedule).

Notre Dame will open the 2006 season in Millington, Tenn., playing four games at USA Baseball Stadium vs. Indiana State, Air Force, Memphis and Oklahoma from Feb. 24-26. The final three games will serve as part of the annual Service Academies Classic. Notre Dame has made four previous appearances at the Service Academies Classic, winning in 1992 before losing to Memphis in the ’96 title game (4-2), beating Army and Arkansas in ’97 (the rest of the ’97 tournament was rained out) and going 2-1 at the 2000 event (wins over Air Force and Memphis, loss to Ohio State).

The second weekend of the season will see Notre Dame make its fourth appearance in tournament action at the Minnesota Metrodome, for the University of Minnesota’s Dairy Queen Classic. The Irish will face four top opponents in the weekend action (March 3-5), with matchups vs. perennial NCAA Tournament teams Nebraska, Minnesota and Arizona. Notre Dame’s previous appearances at the Metrodome tournaments include dropping three games vs. a strong field in 1991, going 2-1 at the 2000 event and then 1-2 vs. another tough slate in ’03 (losses to Nebraska and Minnesota, win over Wake Forest).

The 2006 spring break trip to Texas will mark the 19th time in the past 27 seasons (dating back to ’69) that the Irish baseball team has visited the lone star state – including 10 of 12 seasons in the Paul Mainieri era (all but ’00 and ’03, with a 38-20 record in Texas during the Mainieri era). All eight games in Texas will be played in the familiar confines of San Antonio’s double-A Wolff Stadium, marking Notre Dame’s 18th visit to San Antonio since 1969 and 10th in the Mainieri era. Notre Dame’s first four games in San Antonio (March 10-13) will include matchups vs. Texas A&M, Iowa (twice) and Illinois as part of the UTSA tournament. The team then will play host to the Irish Baseball Classic with a pair of games vs. both Southern Illinois and Iowa from March 16-18 (completing a stretch of 15 road games to open the season).

The BIG EAST baseball conference has expanded to 12 teams for the 2006 season and each team is scheduled to play nine others in three-game series (Notre Dame will not face West Virginia or newcomer Cincinnati in the ’06 regular season). The BIG EAST also has altered its schedule format to feature series with three 9-inning games, typically on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday rotation. Other scheduling issues preclude this format being used for every series in 2006, as Notre Dame will play four BIG EAST doubleheaders (three on the road) in the upcoming season.

Notre Dame’s 2006 home BIG EAST series will feature games vs. Pittsburgh (March 31-April 2), St. John’s (April 13 doubleheader, April 15 single game), Rutgers (April 21-23) and newcomer Louisville (May 5-7). Other teams that will visit Eck Stadium include Wright State (March 21), Central Michigan (March 22), Valparaiso (March 28),Western Michigan (March 29), Chicago State (April 4), Ball State (April 5), Oakland (April 11), Manchester (April 12), Toledo (April 18), IPFW (April 19), Purdue (April 25), Bowling Green (April 26) and Cleveland State (May 2).

The team’s BIG EAST road slate includes series vs. Georgetown (March 25-26; in Bethesda, Md.), South Florida (April 7-9), Connecticut (April 29-30), Seton Hall (May 13-14) and Villanova (May 18-20). Notre Dame and Michigan are scheduled to play at Fifth/Third Bank Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich. (just outside of Grand Rapids), marking the 11th “Baseball Bash” meeting between the teams in the past 12 seasons.

The BIG EAST Tournament will be played under a new eight-team format from May 23-27, at a site that is TBA. The format will mirror the College World Series with two four-team brackets playing double-elimination games on the first four days. The bracket winners then will meet in a single title game on May 27.

The NCAA tournament regionals are set for June 2-4 and the super-regionals on June 9-11 (both at campus sites) while the College World Series will be June 16-26 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.