Dec. 16, 2002

The Notre Dame baseball team has announced its 2003 schedule, with the season highlights to include a pair of early-season games at perennial power Arizona State, participation in a talented four-team field at Minnesota’s Hormel Classic (to be played at the Metrodome), a spring break trip to Jacksonville, Fla., and a return to Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium (site of the College World Series) for a special game versus Creighton – plus the annual BIG EAST Conference and Midwest regional battles.

Notre Dame will open its 56-game regular season in Arizona, with neutral-site games at Arizona State versus Dayton (Feb. 21) and Newman (Feb. 22) before facing the Sun Devils in a pair of games (Feb. 22-23).

The 2003 season will mirror the 2000 campaign in Notre Dame’s second and third destinations, as the Irish will return to Minnesota’s Hormel Foods Classic and the Kennel Club Classic in Jacksonville (a two-week, multi-site showcase of games featuring teams that rotate into town for a series of warm-weather matchups).

Senior closer J.P. Gagne (Bloomington, Minn.) – who started versus Minnesota at the 2000 Hormel Classic – will have the chance to pitch once again at the Major League stadium, with the potent Metrodome field yielding Notre Dame matchups versus Nebraska (Feb. 28), Minnesota (March 1) and Wake Forest (March 2). Nebraska advanced to the College World Series in 2001 and again in ’02 while Minnesota is an annual contender for the Big Ten Conference title and Wake Forest is considered one of the nation’s up-and-coming programs (WFU was the No. 7 overall seed in the 2002 NCAAs but was upset in the Regional round).

The jetsetting Irish will spend spring break in Jacksonville, with two games versus Navy (March 10, 14) and single games versus Vanderbilt (March 8), North Florida (March 9), Jacksonville (March 12), Eastern Illinois (March 13) and Creighton (March 15). Six of the games will be played at UNF, with Jacksonville University the site of the ND-JU and ND-Creighton games.

The bulk of Notre Dame’s home games (24 of 26) will be played in a six-week stretch (March 25-April 27), with only three roadtrips and seven away games during that span. The Irish will encounter a rare midseason trip to face a non-conference foe, returning to Omaha for a pair of games versus Creighton on April 12 (at Rosenblatt Stadium) and the 13th (at CU).

Notre Dame and Michigan again will face each other in an April 29 neutral-site game, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids at minor-league Fifth Third Park (marking the eighth time in nine seasons that the ND-UM game has been played at the award-winning home of the double-A West Michigan Whitecaps).

Notre Dame’s 26-game home schedule includes three-game BIG EAST Conference series versus Georgetown (March 29-30), Connecticut (April 26-27) and West Virginia (May 3-4), plus doubleheaders during Easter weekend versus Pittsburgh (Thurs., April 17) and Seton Hall (Sat., April 19).

The Irish are slated to play several of the top BIG EAST contenders on the road this season, with an April doubleheader at Boston College and a challenging finish to the conference slate with three-game series at Rutgers (May 10-11) and Virginia Tech (May 16-17) – plus road games at Villanova (March 22-23) and St. John’s (April 6).

The home schedule also includes matchups with many of the usual regional foes, including midseason games versus Toledo (March 25), Purdue (March 26), Detroit (April 1), Valparaiso (April 2), Bowling Green (April 8), Western Michigan (April 9) and Chicago State (April 10) – plus home matchups in the final month of the regular season versus Eastern Michigan (April 15), Ball State (April 22), Cleveland State (April 23), Oakland (April 30), Cincinnati (May 13) and Butler (May 14).

The Irish faced eight of the above 13 Midwest teams last season (a game at Purdue was canceled) while Cleveland State returns to the ND schedule (the teams last played in 2001), as do Cincinnati (last played at ND in 1998) and Butler (which played ND in Jacksonville in 2000, with the Bulldogs last visit to Eck Stadium coming in 1996). Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan have met just twice previously, in 2001 (at the University of the Pacific) and in 1992 (at ND’s old Jake Kline Field).

The four-team, double-elimination BIG EAST Championship again will be played at Commerce Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J. (May 22-24). NCAA tournament action will include on-campus competition in the regional (May 30-June 1) and super regional rounds (June 6-8), with the College World Series set for June 13-23 in Omaha.