Dec. 23, 2009

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame baseball team was ranked 39th in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll released earlier this week. The Irish were not only one of three BIG EAST schools among the top-40, but also was the second-highest ranked Northern school.

Dave Schrage begins his fourth season as Notre Dame head coach, looking to again improve on the previous year’s record. The Irish finished 2009 at 36-23 overall, while going 15-12 in the BIG EAST and finished just a game shy of the conference tournament title game.

Six everyday starters, senior outfielder and 2008 first-team all-BIG EAST choice David Mills (Battle Creek, Mich.), junior first baseman David Casey (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.), junior second baseman Greg Sherry (Mendham, N.J.), junior third baseman Mick Doyle (LaGrange Park, Ill.) junior catcher Cameron McConnell (Bannockburn, Ill.) and senior designated hitter Ryan Connolly (Binghamton, N.Y.), all return from last year. The Irish also return senior Brayden Ashdown (Tucson, Ariz.), senior Casey Martin (Chesterton, Ind.), senior Ryne Intlekofer (Moorpark, Calif.) and junior Matt Scioscia, who combined to start 79 games for the Irish last season.

The depth of pitching on last year’s squad was one of its strengths and it will be quite evident heading into this season. Notre Dame returns 11 of its top 13 pitchers from last year’s club, including second-team all-BIG EAST starter Cole Johnson (Hudson, Ohio), but also regain the services of junior Ryan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.), who missed all of 2009 following offseason shoulder surgery. In addition to Johnson, the Irish also return fellow weekend starters in junior Brian Dupra (Rochester, N.Y.) and senior Eric Maust (Alpharetta, Ga.).

Notre Dame also welcomes back sophomore Steve Sabatino (Lockport, Ill.), sophomore Ryan Richter (South Bend, Ind.), sophomore Joe Spano (Verona, N.J.) and sophomore Dustin Ispas (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) — all of whom made starts for the Irish a year ago.

Sophomore Will Hudgins (Richmond, Va.) and junior Todd Miller (Franklin, Tenn.) look to solidify the back end of the bullpen after totaling eight saves for Notre Dame in 2009. Senior Steven Mazur (Round Rock, Texas) and Mills also return to give reliable options out of the Irish bullpen.

Five freshmen signed in November of 2008 will also take to Jake Cline Field for the first time. The class includes outfielder Charlie Markson (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.), infielder Frank Desico (Cleveland, Ohio), catcher Joe Hudson (Odessa, Fla.), right-handed pitcher Patrick Veerkamp (Fort Wayne, Ind.)and infielder Adam Norton (Andrean, Ind.).

The Irish will open the 2010 season with a two-game series against Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 19-20. The Irish and Delta Devils will first play on the MVSU campus on Friday before travelling to Pearl, Miss. for a meeting at Trustmark Park – home of the Mississippi Braves (Class AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves) on Saturday. Notre Dame concludes the opening weekend of the season with a second game at Trustmark Park against Jackson State on Sunday.