Feb. 19, 2016

Series Notes Get Acrobat Reader

By Russell Dorn

Non-ACC Weekend #1: Santa Clara
February 19-21, 2016
9 p.m. / 9 p.m. / 2 p.m. (All ET)
Stephen Schott Stadium (Santa Clara, CA)

Team Information:

Notre Dame: 0-0, 0-0 ACC (37-23, 17-13 ACC In 2015)
2015 Postseason: 1-2 @ ACC Tourney & 1-2 @ NCAA Champaign Regional

Santa Clara: 0-0, 0-0 WCC (26-28, 12-15 WCC In 2015)
2015 Postseason: Did Not Qualify For WCC Tournament

ND: #24 – Perfect Game & #27 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper

Projected Pitching Matchups:
G1: RHP Ryan Smoyer (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Mitch White (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
G2: RHP Peter Solomon (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Steven Wilson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
G3: LHP Sean Guenther (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Jason Seever (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Game Coverage:
Live Video: Santa Clara Video (Links on UND.com)
Live Audio: WatchND / WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend (Chuck Freeby, pbp)
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast (Links on UND.com)
Twitter Reports: @NDBaseball / @NDsidRuss

Weather Report (as of Thursday, Feb. 18):
Friday, Feb. 19: 63/44 w/ PM Showers (30%)
Saturday, Feb. 20: 65/44 & Partly Sunny
Sunday, Feb. 21: 68/47 & Sunny

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – One of the most anticipated University of Notre Dame baseball seasons in recent memory is just hours away from kicking off as the No. 24 Irish are in beautiful Santa Clara, California for a three-game set with the Santa Clara Broncos.

After qualifying for their first NCAA Regional last season since 2006, Mik Aoki’s squad has big goals entering their third season in the elite Atlantic Coast Conference.

This weekend provides Notre Dame a chance to get off to another hot start after the 2015 Irish went 11-1 to open the year before finishing tied for third in the ACC.

Here are five things to know before the season-opening series begins:

  1. After not starting a game until March 11 last year, junior RHP Ryan Smoyer has become the unquestioned ace of the staff after a phenomenal second half of the season saw him go 9-1 with a slim 2.27 ERA before following it up with a solid Cape Cod League season this past summer … Smoyer will take the mound Friday against Santa Clara as the second consecutive new opening-day starter for the Irish (Michael Hearne – 2015) after former ace Sean Fitzgerald started the first game in three consecutive seasons from 2012-14.
  1. In Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests a pair of sophomores will head to the bump for the Irish after spending much of 2015 coming out of the bullpen … RHP Peter Solomon will get the nod Saturday before LHP Sean Guenther closes out the series Sunday … Solomon returns to the mound after missing the last two months of his rookie campaign with a shoulder injury … before the injury Solomon was downright dominant for much of his nine appearances as he allowed just three runs (1.40 ERA) over 19.1 innings … his final outing was a splendid relief appearance against No. 8 Louisville where he went a career-high seven innings and allowed just one run while tossing 98 pitches … Guenther, meanwhile, led the Irish in saves (5) last year before making his first career start in the ACC Tournament against No. 6 Miami … he finished with a 2.72 ERA over 46.1 innings of work while making a team-high 27 appearances.
  1. In the field the Irish return plenty of starters including their entire infield and catcher Ryan Lidge … the outfield will offer a bit of new flavor with freshman Matt Vierling looking like the probable starter in right field after the graduation of 2015 third team all-ACC performer and current Notre Dame volunteer assistant coach Robert Youngdahl … in left field, look for sophomore Jake Johnson to make his return to the field after missing the last half of 2015 with an oblique injury … before the injury, Johnson was the prototypical leadoff guy for the Irish, posting a .392 on-base percentage with 19 hits, 13 walks and eight hit by pitch in just 25 games.
  1. Notre Dame and the Broncos have only met three times, but two of those games came in 2014 at the Alamo Irish Classic in San Antonio … a pair of one-run contests ensued between the Irish and Santa Clara, with the latter winning the tournament title with 8-7 and 2-1 victories … despite the losses, anticipated 2016 starters Cavan Biggio (2B), Kyle Richardson (CF) and Zak Kutsulis (1B) all had outstanding performances against Santa Clara … Biggio batted .500 with a homer, three RBI, two sac flies and two runs scored, Richardson hit .500 with four singles and Kutsulis batted .444 with four hits, a double, RBI and a run scored.
  1. Last year the Irish led Division I with 75 double plays and have a remarkable 285 double plays (57 per year) in Mik Aoki’s five seasons at the helm of the Irish program … with a veteran infield can the Irish move towards the top of the Division I leaderboard again?

For more information on the Notre Dame baseball, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).

Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.