Feb. 8, 2004

The Notre Dame baseball team just completed its first complete week of official 2004 practice and the Irish coaches have checked in with their comments for the weekly practice report:

Head Coach Paul Mainieri

“Greg Lopez and Steve Sollmann are working well together and have developed a good feel for each other. And Matt Edwards and Matt Macri really have worked hard at their new positions. They are making great progress.

“Tom Thornton has thrown well the past couple weeks and could emerge as one of our top starters. Jess Stewart, Dan Kapala and Derik Olvey, three of our freshman righthanders, each have thrown great since the Christmas break and should play key roles. Jefff Samardzija has shown some great potential and we want to see him more versus live hitting, to see if he can pound the strike zone.

“Brennan Grogan and Steve Andres have been swinging the bat well and could help boost our hitting from the left side, although things can be hard to gauge at this stage.

“We’ve worked on a lot of infield drills and the outfielders really have made some great improvements in their defense, particularly on throws to the cutoff man.

“Our players continue to love playing on the new Premier turf at the Loftus Center. It allows them to play hard and dive for balls and we are able to have some great indoor practices and scrimmages.”

Assistant Coach David Grewe

“We are getting to the point now where the batters have more live at-bats and where the pitchers are pitching in more game-like situations. We have worked a lot on team defense and situational play and almost are 100% prepared.

“We’ve done all the hard work, the team-building, putting in the hours. Now it’s a matter of staying sharp and staying in shape.

“Our freshman catcher Sean Gaston is doing a great job. He is learning as we go, but he is looking sharp and will be ready to go and help us out the first weekend.

“The infield really is shaping up. Matt Macri and Matt Edwards are shaping into a good situation, in their new positions at the corner infield spots.

“Collectively as a group, the outfielders really are swinging the bats well and have seen a lot of live at-bats. We have a lot of options and optimism for the DH spot. There are several talented hitters who we can use in that role.”

Assistant Coach Terry Rooney

“We are starting to define the roles of each pitcher for the opening weekend. We have shifted the focus to more individual groups, with the pitchers who are likely starters having the higher pitch counts while the relievers have been bouncing back to pitch shorter spurts, twice in a three-day period. In the coming week, we will be making decisions on the starters and start working backwards to get the normal starting rotation.

“We are very fortunate to have such great indoor facilities here at Notre Dame. From a pitching standpoint, our guys can face live batters in simulated games while throwing off dirt mounds with umpires at all of the scrimmages. It’s as real a simulation as you can get. It gives the pitchers 100% realistic outings and they even may get to throw a few more pitches than they would outside.

“Everything is on schedule with the staff, from a pitch-count and physical conditioning standpoint. Now it’s a matter of penciling guys in and playing some games.

“One of the five elements of pitching that we preach is controlling the running game. We want our pitchers and catchers to be quick to the plate but also control the running game by being aggressive and throwing as many strikes as they can, to keep the double play in order. We’ve done a good job in addressing this area throughout the preseason.

“For our catchers, it’s important for them to learn our pitchers and get a feel for each member of the staff, understanding the movement on the ball from different pitchers. All of the catchers are becoming more comfortable with the staff every day.”