June 17, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Scott Lawler has been named Notre Dame’s interim head coach for baseball, as announced by senior assistant athletic director Josh Berlo. Lawler takes over on an interim basis for Dave Schrage, who was not retained as head baseball coach after four seasons in that position.
“We are very happy to have Scott take on the role of interim head coach,” said Berlo. “We are confident he will do an excellent job.”
“I am grateful for the confidence that the athletic department has expressed by offering this opportunity,” said Lawler. “Obviously, this has been a tough week, but it’s my responsibility to lead Notre Dame baseball. I will do that to the best of my ability. This program is filled with kids of ultimate character, courage and will to win, so anything less from me would be unacceptable.”
Lawler – considered one of the top young coaches in the nation and a product of an impressive baseball pedigree – has been Notre Dame’s top assistant over the last four seasons, all under Schrage. He served as the Irish associate head coach each of the last two years.
Lawler’s coaching responsibilities have included instruction of the Irish hitters and infielders. He previously served as an assistant coach for five years (four with the additional role of recruiting coordinator), first at Northern Illinois during the 2001 and ’02 seasons and then for three years at Evansville (2003-05).
Lawler spent the 2006 season as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas-Little Rock. While at Little Rock, he had the unique opportunity to serve on the staff of his uncle Jim Lawler, whose status as a household name in the world of college baseball includes 22 seasons as a member of the Texas A&M baseball staff and being named national assistant coach of the year in 2003.
Lawler has even closer coaching ties, as his father Phil Lawler coached for 34 years in the Chicago area, including 29 seasons as associate head coach of the Naperville Central High School team that won the 2006 Illinois state title. The elder Lawler, who passed away this spring, was widely known throughout the state’s baseball community and was inducted into the Illinois High School Hall of Fame.
Lawler’s ability as a recruiting coordinator was validated during his first months on the job at Notre Dame, as he spearheaded the effort that landed an elite class (the program’s current juniors) that was ranked as high as fourth best in the nation (per Collegiate Baseball magazine).
In addition to his recruiting accomplishments, Lawler most recently mentored 2009 first round MLB draft choice A.J. Pollock. The outfielder was selected 17th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks. His selection equaled the highest an Irish player has ever been taken in the draft.
Pollock was the only Irish player to ever hit 10 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season. One of two players in the BIG EAST who had at least 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2009, Pollock became Notre Dame’s first back-to-back MVP since Aaron Heilman (2000, 2001) and the second Irish player ever (Steve Stanley, 2000-02) to lead Notre Dame in hitting three consecutive seasons. He was named all-BIG EAST first team for the second consecutive season. Pollock started all 59 games for the Irish and batted .365 with 69 runs scored, 19 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs and 52 RBI. Pollock added 30 walks and 21 stolen bases. He led the squad in batting average, on-base percentage (.443), runs scored, hits (88), doubles, triples (tied), stolen bases, plate appearances (285), at bats (241), games played (tied) and games started (tied).
Pollock also played a flawless centerfield. He did not commit an error in 159 fielding chances. Pollock did not have an error over a 67-game stretch dating back to May 9, 2008. In fact, he committed just one error over his final 104 games.
Lawler’s expertise was even more evident in 2008. Notre Dame finished the 2007 season ranked eighth in batting (.274), ninth in slugging percentage (.371), eighth in on-base percentage (.365), eighth in runs scored (307) and 11th in home runs (24). The Irish improved in each of those categories in 2008, including ranking fourth in batting (.308, 34 points higher than ’07), fourth in slugging (.447, 76 points higher than `07), third in on-base (.392, 27 points higher than `07), fifth in runs scored (375, 68 more than ’07) and sixth in home runs (41, 17 more than ’07).
Notre Dame also re-emerged into the upper echelon of the BIG EAST Conference. In league games only, the Irish ranked either first or second in batting (2nd), on-base percentage (1st), runs scored (t-2nd), RBI (2nd), sacrifice bunts (2nd) and sacrifice flies (1st).
Lawler was a key component of rebuilding success stories at Northern Illinois and Evansville before heading to Little Rock in July of 2005 to coach with his uncle, who targeted his nephew for the staff due to his experience rebuilding programs. In one month’s time, the Lawler duo had assembled a new group of eight recruits that was rated by Collegiate Baseball magazine among the nation’s “best of the rest” (just outside the top-40) for classes entering in the fall of 2005. Prior to leaving for Notre Dame, Lawler had helped his uncle sign a class of 19 for the 2006 season, as the Trojans continued their rebuilding project.
Lawler’s three seasons at Evansville saw the Aces pitching staff lower the team ERA every season, culminating in a 4.46 ERA for the 2005 season. Many of the players he recruited ended up being key ingredients in the record-setting 2006 season that featured the Aces winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles before reaching the final game of the NCAA Charlottesville Regional (capping a 43-win season). In fact, eight players from that squad signed professional contracts in 2007.
His 2005 recruiting class at Evansville was included among Collegiate Baseball’s annual “best of the rest” and his 2005 staff featured three pitchers who received all-MVC honors. Most notably, Michael Greenhouse developed under the guidance of Lawler into a 2005 Chicago Cubs draft pick.
Lawler’s recruiting highlights included signing eventual 2004 MVC newcomer of the year Cody Strait and 2004 Freshman All-American Pat Tumilty. Prior to leaving Evansville, he signed two prospects who were ranked in the nation’s Top 100 by Team One Baseball: Ben Norton (the 2006 MVC newcomer of the year) and catcher Kirk Bascu, who later received all-MVC honors. His numerous duties at Evansville also included organizing the summer camp program, managing compliance needs and team travel.
Lawler had joined an Evansville program that had won only 22 games in the 2002 season, and then proceeded to guide the Aces in building their victory total each season – including 24-31 in 2003, 28-32 in ’04 and 35-23 in ’05. He had overseen a similar turnaround at Northern Illinois, where he joined a program that had won only four games in the 1999 season. That victory total grew to 24 in 2000 before Lawler joined the staff for a 2001 season that produced the most wins in the history of the program (28-27) and the first winning record by an NIU baseball team in 20 years.
Lawler initially joined the NIU staff as a volunteer assistant but one month later took over the vacant second assistant’s position, after making a strong impression. He coached the Huskies hitters and outfielders, including Freshman All-America first baseman Trevor Stocking, while also organizing the program’s fundraising efforts.
He later was promoted to the additional role of NIU recruiting coordinator for the 2002 season and helped sign a class that produced two Freshman All-Americans and two others who eventually were drafted or signed by Major League teams. Another one of his NIU signees later signed with the San Francisco Giants in 2005.
Lawler’s collegiate playing career began at Morehead (Ky.) State, where he played from 1995-98 as a pitcher, outfielder and first baseman before transferring to Simpson College (in Indianola, Iowa) for his senior season.
A native of Naperville, Ill., Lawler graduated from Simpson College in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in sports administration. He went on to earn a master’s in public service administration from Evansville in 2005. He and his wife, Kim – who was a member of the cross-country team at Northern Illinois – are the parents of two sons, Lucas and Tucker, and a daughter, Alexa.
— ND —