MEET THE STAFF…
HEAD BASEBALL COACH, MIK AOKIIn 2011, Aoki inherited an Irish program looking to return to postseason baseball and immediately delivered. His first Notre Dame team returned to the conference tournament while slashing its staff ERA by 2.53. The program continued to improve in win total each of his first three seasons before embarking on play in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014. The trend turned upwards again in 2015, as the Irish rode a blistering 10-1 start to 37 victories and a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
During his tenure at Notre Dame, Aoki has seen 21 Irish players selected in the Major League draft, including 10 picks in the first 10 rounds. The 2013 draft saw three Irish players hear their name called in the first 10 rounds, the most for the program over those first 10 rounds since 2004. Aoki’s club set more Irish draft standards in 2017, as it tied a school record with six draft picks. In addition, three players taken in the first seven rounds were a program record for selections over those opening seven rounds, while it was the third time in school history Notre Dame had three picks in the first 10 rounds, the second such occurrence under Aoki.
ASSISTANT COACH/CO-RECRUITING COORDINATOR, JESSE WOODS
Jesse Woods has continued to both identify and develop talent through seven seasons as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Notre Dame. Woods has recruited five classes in the top 45 nationally to Notre Dame, while mentoring 10 all-conference selections and nine Major League draft picks among the program’s non-pitchers.
Most recently, Woods helped mentor Matt Vierling to third team All-ACC honors in 2017. The sophomore followed up Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors by ranking in the top-five in the league in both doubles and triples. In addition, catcher Ryan Lidge was selected in the 20th round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, capping a six-person draft class from the program which matched the school record.
ASSISTANT COACH (pitching coach)/CO-RECRUITING COORDINATOR, CHUCK RISTANOThrough seven seasons at the University of Notre Dame, Chuck Ristano has produced 12 Major League draft picks on the mound, a team ERA under 4.00 in five seasons and nine all-conference selections from the pitching staff. He led Irish hurlers to three consecutive seasons with a walks per nine innings rate lower than 3.00 for the first time in program history.
In addition to his success with the arms, Ristano has teamed with co-recruiting coordinator and fellow assistant Jesse Woods to bring five top-45 recruiting classes to Notre Dame. The pair has held true to Notre Dame’s national recruiting base, bringing in student-athletes from over 15 stats since the fall of 2010.
VOLUNTEER ASSISTANT COACH, ROBERT YOUNGDAHL Former University of Notre Dame baseball standout Robert Youngdahl rejoined the program in the fall of 2015 as its volunteer assistant coach after two outstanding seasons playing for the Irish from 2014-15.
In his role Youngdahl oversees camps, coaches the outfielders, assists with hitting and coaches first base during games among other duties. He mentored his first All-ACC selection in 2017, when sophomore centerfielder Matt Vierling was selected to the third time. Vielring led the Irish in batting (.330), slugging (.549), homers (seven) and RBI (42). That followed a rookie campaign in 2016 which saw Vierling earn Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors.
DIRECTOR OF BASEBALL OPERATIONS, KELLI ZEESEFormer University of Notre Dame head student baseball manager Kelli Zeese rejoined the Irish program as its Director of Baseball Operations in September 2015.
She returns to the Irish after graduating from Saint Mary’s College in May 2012 with a major in psychology and minor in biology. During her time at Saint Mary’s, Zeese served two years as the head student manager for Aoki’s program.