Aug. 15, 2002
Notre Dame’s Paul Mainieri – whose veteran leadership steered the Irish baseball team through an historic 2002 season – has repeated as the Mideast Region Coach of the Year, as selected by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Mainieri was the only repeat selection among the eight regional honorees, with Augie Garrido of national champion Texas earning the ABCA’s 2002 national coach of the year award.
Mainieri guided the 2002 Notre Dame squad to the program’s second College World Series appearance (and first since 1957) en route to a 50-18 overall record. The Irish bounced back from an injury-plagued 9-10 start to win 41 of their final 49 games while establishing the Notre Dame record for wins in a season (50).
Mainieri’s record-setting squad – despite losing 2001 ace pitchers Aaron Heilman and Danny Tamayo and shortstop/three-hole hitter Alec Porzel to graduation – rallied behind an eight-member senior class and an upstart group of freshman pitchers to claim the program’s first BIG EAST Conference tournament title, in addition to repeating as the BIG EAST regular-season champion.
Notre Dame then played host to NCAA regional action, advancing with a pair of wins over Ohio State and a record-shattering 25-1 explosion versus the regional’s top seed South Alabama ? before ending Florida State’s 25-game winning streak and then knocking off the No. 1-ranked Seminoles again in the best-of-three Super Regional round.
Mainieri’s last two Notre Dame teams have combined for a 99-31-1 record, representing the nation’s third-most wins during that two-year span.
He will enter the 2003 season on the verge of registering his 700th victory as a college head coach, with a 686-421-1 mark (.620) in 20 seasons. The 2001 BIG EAST coach of the year ranks as the second-winningest coach in Notre Dame baseball history (354-142-1/.713), previously coaching six seasons at both the U.S. Air Force Academy (152-158) and St. Thomas (Fla.) University (180-121).
The other regional coaches of the year included four – Garrido, Ray Tanner (South Carolina), Jack Leggett (Clemson) and Wayne Graham (Rice) – who joined Mainieri in taking their teams to Omaha for the 2002 CWS. Rounding out the honorees were Rayner Noble (Houston), Charlie Hickey (Central Connecticut) and Ronnie Atkins (Richmond). Hickey previously coached in the BIG EAST as the head coach at Providence, which dropped its baseball program after the 1999 season.
Mainieri also was one of three finalists for Collegiate Baseball magazine’s coach-of-the-year award, which was presented to Garrido earlier in the summer (Georgia Tech’s Danny Hall was the other finalist for that award).
Here’s the complete list of the 2002 ABCA regional coaches of the year:
South – Ray Tanner (South Carolina)
South-Central – Rayner Noble (Houston)
Atlantic – Jack Leggett (Clemson)
Northeast – Charlie Hickey (Central Connecticut)
Mideast – Paul Mainieri (Notre Dame)
Midwest – Augie Garrido (Texas)
East – Ronnie Atkins (Richmond)
West – Wayne Graham (Rice)