Feb. 12, 2015
Opening Weekend: SIU-Edwardsville/Oklahoma
Feb. 13-15, 2015
1 p.m. / 5 p.m. / 5 p.m. / 12 p.m. (All CT)
L. Dale Mitchell Park (Norman, Oklahoma)
Notre Dame: 0-0, 0-0 ACC (22-31, 9-21 ACC In 2014)
2014 Postseason: Did not qualify for postseason
SIU-Edwardsville: 0-0, 0-0 OVC (21-33, 16-14 OVC In 2014)
2014 Postseason: 0-2 at OVC Tournament
Oklahoma: 0-0, 0-0 Big 12 (29-29, 8-16 Big 12 In 2014)
2014 Postseason: 1-2 at the Big 12 Tournament
None Of The Teams Are Ranked
Projected Pitching Matchups:
G1 (SIU-E): LHP Michael Hearne (0-0) vs. RHP Ryan Daniels (0-0)
G2 (Okla.): RHP Scott Kerrigan (0-0) vs. RHP Jake Elliott (0-0)
G3 (Okla.): RHP Brandon Bielak (0-0) vs. RHP Alec Hansen (0-0)
G4 (Okla.): RHP Nick McCarty (0-0) vs. LHP Adam Choplick (0-0)
vs. SIU-Edwardsvile: First Meeting Between The Teams
Aoki vs. SIU-Edwardsville: 0-0
vs. Oklahoma: OU lead 2-1
First Meeting: L, A, 15-3 (3/15/82)
Last Meeting: W, N, 6-5 – 11 innings (3/10/13)
Aoki vs. Oklahoma: 1-0 (all at ND)
Paid Video: SoonerSports.tv
Live Audio: WHME 103.1 FM (Chuck Freeby, pbp) or WatchND (Links on UND.com)
Live Stats: Sooner Live Stats
Twitter Reports: @ND Baseball / @NDsidRuss
Weather Report (as of Tuesday, Feb. 10):
Friday, Feb. 13: 60 Degrees / Partly Cloudy
Saturday, Feb. 14: 63 Degrees / Sunny
Sunday, Feb. 15: 51 Degrees / Mostly Sunny
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The countdowns, intrasquad scrimmages and months preparing are in the rearview mirror for the University of Notre Dame baseball team, as the Irish are just hours away from the first pitch of the 2015 college baseball season.
After an enthusiastic and productive fall and preseason, the Irish begin their standard five-week road trip to open the year this weekend with a trip to Norman, Oklahoma for a single game against SIU-Edwardsville and a three-game set versus the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Irish (22-31 in 2014) open the new campaign at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT) Friday against the Cougars of SIU Edwardsville at Oklahoma’s L. Dale Mitchell Park.
We are incredibly excited to get the year started,” said Irish fifth-year head coach Mik Aoki. “Our confidence level is in a good place, I think our preparation has been really good – high energy, high execution and I think our pitchers are sick of facing our hitters and I vice versa, so the first game comes at a good time. We are really excited to get out there and it looks like it will be a good weekend of weather in Norman so we are looking forward to it.”
Notre Dame junior standout Michael Hearne will take the mound in his first start since a breakout sophomore campaign saw him hurl a team-high 86.0 innings, post a slim 2.51 ERA and strike out 48 batters compared to just 13 walks.
The Palos Heights, Illinois native is tasked with going toe-to-toe with Cougar ace Ryan Daniels, who went 7-0 in 14 starts last year while posting a 3.53 ERA and 69 strikeouts.
“Daniels had a really good year last year and went out there just about every Friday and gave his team an opportunity to win. So we will have our work cut out for us from that standpoint,” said Aoki.
It’s the first meeting for the two programs, as SIU Edwardsville is entering just its third full season as a Division I member. Last year, the Cougars finished 21-33, including posting a 16-14 in the Ohio Valley Conference. They earned the No. 4 seed in the OVC Tournament, dropping their first two contests of the tourney.
SIU Edwardsville’s top two hitters are back from a year ago, with centerfielder Denton Reed (.344 avg., 5 3B, 14 RBI, 21 BB) and leftfielder Nick Lombardo (.321 avg., 12 2B, 21 RBI, 27 BB) roaming the outfield.
Following the game with the Cougars, Notre Dame will begin a three-game set against the Sooners at 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT) Friday. Saturday’s game is set for 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT), while Sunday’s series finale gets underway at 1 p.m. ET (12 p.m. CT).
Oklahoma (29-29 in 2014) went 8-16 in the Big 12 a year ago and was 1-2 in the conference tournament. Two years ago, the Sooners swept the Big 12 Tournament and Blacksburg Regional before falling in a pair of games at LSU in the Super Regionals.
Against OU, the Irish will toss senior RHP Scott Kerrigan, freshman RHP Brandon Bielak and junior RHP Nick McCarty, while Oklahoma will counter with sophomore RHP Jake Elliott, sophomore RHP Alec Hansen and redshirt-junior LHP Adam Choplick.
Kerrigan had a breakout junior campaign after missing his sophomore year with a shoulder injury. The Saugus, California native went 3-1 with a 1.87 ERA, which was second in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He underwent left knee surgery in the summer after injuring it in his final start, but spent the fall rehabbing and is ready to take his place as the veteran starter on the roster.
Despite being young, Bielak has impressed the Irish coaches all fall and into the preseason with his power right arm. Meanwhile, McCarty is coming off an up-and-down sophomore campaign that saw him turn in five quality starts in nine opportunities. He hurled a complete-game, two-hitter against Chicago State to highlight his second season with the Irish.
For Oklahoma, Elliott was 2-3 with a 3.56 ERA last year, while Hansen was 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA and Choplick was 3-4 with a 5.35 ERA.
The Sooners had a powerful offense in 2014, as they boasted a .287/.401/.362 split and hit 30 homers. The good news for OU is that it returns several of those talented bats led by preseason All-American shortstop Sheldon Neuse. A year ago, Neuse, Baseball America’s preseason Player of the Year, started all 58 games, hitting .304 with seven homers, seven triples, 47 RBI, 27 walks and 43 runs scored. He also pitched, claiming a 2.25 ERA in 12.0 innings of work. Neuse is interestingly vying for the closer role on this year’s team as well.
Also returning for Oklahoma are Craig Aikin (.326, 78 H, 32 BB, 47 R), Hunter Haley (.294, 6 HR, 6 3B, 43 R), Kolbey Carpenter (.300/.450/.368) and Austin O’Brien (.283/.415/.364).
“Oklahoma is a talented team, two years ago it was a Super Regional team,” said Aoki. “They have a player in Sheldon Neuse, who is on everyone’s preseason All-America teams. They have some talented arms with some arm strength and we are going to go into a great environment. Especially with the infrequent but big matchups between Oklahoma football and Notre Dame football, I think that adds a bit of a draw to it as well. So I would expect we will go into a pretty charged environment against a good and well-coached team this weekend.”
Notre Dame and Oklahoma will play as many games this weekend as they have in their entire series history. The Sooners hold a slim 2-1 lead, but fell to the Irish in Los Angeles in 2013 on a Kevin DeFilippis’ RBI single that scored Ryan Bull to give No. 22 Notre Dame a 6-5 win over No. 10 Oklahoma in 11 innings.
The series will also be a reunion of sorts for Aoki and second-year Oklahoma head coach Pete Hughes. The two head coaches both graduated from Davidson College in 1990 and later Aoki served as an assistant coach under Hughes for three seasons at Boston College before Hughes took the head job at Virginia Tech and BC promoted Aoki to the head role.
“We’ve had the opportunity to play against one another over the last few years since we were together at BC and it’s been fun,” said Aoki. “We are going to have dinner together Thursday night because one of us won’t be in much of a socializing mood Friday night and again Saturday night. But it’s always great to play against each other. Pete is one of my dearest friends. His wife is someone we went to college with as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing them on a personal level as well.”
Fans can listen to all four games through WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend or the WatchND app online. Live stats are also available at UND.com. For the Oklahoma series, fans have the option to pay $9.99 for a monthly subscription to SoonerSports.tv, which will feature a live video stream of all three contests.
In-game updates will be posted on Twitter (@NDBaseball) with full recaps on UND.com at the conclusion of each day.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director