Jan. 19, 2003

The Notre Dame baseball team is ranked 14th in the USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches poll, after earlier receiving a No. 12 preseason ranking from Baseball America, a No. 13 ranking in the National College Baseball Writers Association preseason poll and holding the No. 19 spot in the Collegiate Baseball magazine preseason poll.

Three of Notre Dame’s 2003 opponents were listed on the USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches top 25, with the Irish set to face each of those teams in the first two weeks of the season: No. 9 Arizona State, 12th-ranked Wake Forest and No. 19 Nebraska. BIG EAST Conference rival Rutgers also received votes in the preseason polling.

The Irish are slated to open their season in Tempe, Ariz., with games versus Dayton (Feb. 21), Newman (Feb. 22) and Arizona State (Feb. 22 and 23).

Notre Dame returns the bulk of its pitching staff and several position starters, led by senior rightfielder Kris Billmaier, junior second baseman Steve Sollmann, junior first baseman Joe Thaman and junior Javi Sanchez (who is slated to shift from shortstop to catcher). Highly-touted sophomore shortstop Matt Macri also is on schedule to make his debut at that position with the Irish, after missing most of his sophomore season due to injury (he was limited to 14 starts at DH and two at second base in 2002).

See www.usatoday.com for the complete preseason poll.