Dec. 10, 2015
By Russell Dorn
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – “Ultimate team guys.” “Hard workers.” “Hold teammates accountable.”
These are just some of the descriptors used by coaches and teammates of 2015-16 University of Notre Dame baseball co-captains James Nevant (pronounced nuh-VANT) and Lane Richards, who were recently voted into the role by their teammates.
“It’s important to note that James and Lane were selected captains by their peers,” said sixth-year head coach Mik Aoki. “The guys in the locker room know who they want as their leaders, and James and Lane do it the right way. They are phenomenal about going about their business. They are hard workers and ultimate team guys. They do well in the classroom and are active in community service. They are really good examples of what it means to be a Notre Dame baseball player.”
Junior third baseman Kyle Fiala echoes Aoki’s thoughts.
“There aren’t two better guys on our team who are as fitting to be captains as Lane and James. They embody the culture we have created here and they go about their business the right way in every aspect of their lives on a daily basis. They are incredible teammates and more importantly they are incredible people. They are guys who we, as a whole, look up to and are able to go to for advice or anything else
that we may need. They are respected by each and every one of us in the locker room and we are all so happy to have Lane and James leading this team throughout the year.”
Always an elite defender, Richards has shown increased proficiency with the bat during his career. After battling back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow that cut short his sophomore campaign, Richards worked hard at the plate to have a solid and productive junior year that saw him notch career highs in hits (57), doubles (12), RBI (33), walks (16), runs (30), average (.258), slugging percentage (.398) and on-base percentage (.305). He also posted a career best in stolen bases (5) and hit the first five homers of his career.
In the field he has a career .948 fielding percentage while playing at the critical position of shortstop and has helped turn a remarkable 114 double plays. While playing in all 58 games last year, the Pendleton, Oregon product played a key role on an Irish squad that led Division I in double plays (75) and double plays per game (1.25).
“Lane is definitely not afraid to hold anyone accountable,” said senior LHP Michael Hearne. “He says what needs to be said. He’s also someone with one of the best work ethics on the team.”
“Ever since I stepped foot on campus Lane is someone that I have really looked up to,” said Fiala, who has started beside Richards for two years. “He took me under his wing when I was a freshman and really helped make the transition much easier than I expected. His work ethic is incredible in that he is always looking for areas to make his game better. He looks out for the guy next to him and expects us all to be working just as hard. He pushes us to grow and improve every day to not only become better players but better people. He personifies everything we are trying to do and accomplish, which makes him an incredible leader on and off the baseball field.”
Nevant has been a leader in the locker room for much of his career since coming to the Golden Dome from T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, North Carolina.
A multi-skilled defender, Nevant has moved between first base and right field during his time at Notre Dame, playing in 50 games with 11 starts over three years and tallying seven hits, four RBI, seven walks, two hit by pitch and six runs scored.
Perhaps one of Nevant’s best moments on the field came in 2014 at No. 1 Florida State. With the Irish trailing 5-4 with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Nevant strolled to the plate as a pinch hitter to face 2013 Heisman Trophy winner turned RHP Jameis Winston.
Showing patience, Nevant induced a four-pitch walk and later scored the game-tying run as Winston looked on in the background.
“James has a great feel for the guys and what’s going on in their lives,” said Hearne. “He’s a good person to go to for advice and everyone respects him.”
Under the direction of Aoki, a veteran coaching staff and co-captains Richards & Nevant, the Irish return 20 monogram winners, the entire infield including Rawlings Gold Glove winner Cavan Biggio (2B) and third team all-Atlantic Coast Conference performer Kyle Fiala (3B), their starting catcher in Johnny Bench Award candidate Ryan Lidge and 472.2 of 554.2 innings on the mound in 2016 from a team that went 37-23 overall and finished tied for third during the regular season in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference before advancing to their first NCAA Regional appearance since 2006.
For more information on the Notre Dame baseball, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).
Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.