Jan. 15, 2003

The Notre Dame baseball team is ranked 13th in the National College Baseball Writers Association preseason poll, after earlier receiving a No. 12 preseason ranking from Baseball America and holding the No. 19 spot in the Collegiate Baseball magazine preseason poll.

Four of Notre Dame’s 2003 opponents were listed on the NCBWA preseason top 35, including three teams that the Irish will face in the first two weeks of the season: No. 10 Arizona State, 11th-ranked Wake Forest and No. 18 Nebraska. BIG EAST Conference contender Virginia Tech checked in at No. 28 in the NCBWA preseason poll.

The first USA Today coaches poll will be released in late January, with the Irish slated to open their season in Tempe, Ariz., with games versus Dayton (Feb. 21), Newman (Feb. 22) and Arizona State (Feb. 22 and 23).

Notre Dame returns the bulk of its pitching staff and several position starters, led by senior rightfielder Kris Billmaier, junior second baseman Steve Sollmann, junior first baseman Joe Thaman and junior Javi Sanchez (who is slated to shift from shortstop to catcher). Highly-touted sophomore shortstop Matt Macri also is on schedule to make his debut at that position with the Irish, after missing most of his sophomore season due to injury (he was limited to 14 starts at DH and two at second base in 2002).

See www.ncbwa.com for the complete baseball writers preseason poll.