The Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team begins their 2020 season this weekend with a trip to Birmingham, AL to take on the UAB Blazers. Last season Notre Dame finished with a record of 24-30 with an ACC record of 13-17. That was good for sixth in the Atlantic division, ahead of only the Boston College Eagles.
The Irish open this season with a new head coach after Link Jarrett takes the job following seven successful seasons leading the UNC Greensboro Spartans. The Irish also return a good amount of talent in both the lineup and the pitching staff that should ease Garrett’s transition to South Bend.
One of the biggest names returning for Notre Dame this year is junior infielder Niko Kavadas. Last year Kavadas slashed .274/.390/.517, adding in 12 home runs and 43 RBIs, which both led the team. He spent the summer playing for the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League where he was named an All Star. He was named one of four captains for the Irish this season and was named a third team preseason All-American by Baseball America..
Joining Kavadas as a captain this year is senior infielder/outfielder Daniel Jung. Jung comes off a junior season where he set career highs in home runs, RBIs, runs, and hits. Jung will look to take another step forward now that he has been named a captain.
While the football team is losing a Kmet, the baseball team is not. Catcher Casey joins the team this season as a freshman, replacing older brother Cole. Other underclassmen who will look to have an impact this year are sophomore Carter Putz, who was named a top prospect for the 2021 MLB Draft by D1 Baseball, and Jack Brannigan, who was named an impact freshman also by D1 Baseball.
The two biggest losses from Notre Dame’s team last season both come from the pitching staff. Cameron Junker was drafted after last season by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cameron Brown, who was also named a captain for the 2020 season, will miss the entire season after suffering an arm injury over the winter.
One big arm that is returning for the Irish is junior Joe Boyle. Also named a captain for this season, Boyle joins Kavadas as a third team preseason All-American. He was also a Cape Cod League All Star this past summer. Boyle came to Notre Dame highly regarded but has struggled with command in the past. He seems to have found a role as a hard throwing reliever though on the Cape. His fastball has been clocked as high as 102 MPH and he will definitely be a name to watch this season and for the 2020 MLB Draft.
Joining Boyle in the bullpen is junior Tommy Vail, who was recently named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year preseason watch list, the award given annually to college baseball’s best relief pitcher. Vail was also a member of the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League last season. Returning to the Irish rotation this season will be junior Tommy Sheehan. Sheehan led the Irish last year in starts, wins, IP, and complete games.
As always, Notre Dame opens the baseball season on the road, travelling south to hopefully warmer weather to open against the UAB Blazers this weekend. They follow that up with a trip to San Antonio February 20-22 for the Alamo Irish Classic. Also participating this year are the Incarnate Word Cardinals, the Toledo Rockets, and the UTSA Roadrunners.
Notre Dame opens ACC play on the road with against the North Carolina Tar Heels on March 6-8. They open their home schedule on St. Patrick’s Day with a game against the Western Michigan Broncos before their first home series March 20-22 against the Clemson Tigers.
The Irish travel to Indianapolis on April 28 for a game against the Indiana Hoosiers that will be played at Victory Field, home of the minor league Indianapolis Indians. They close their home schedule against the Central Michigan Chippewas on May 9-10 and finish the regular season against the NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh, NC on May 14-16. The ACC tournament takes place in Charlotte, NC from May 19-24.
Notre Dame will have several games broadcast on the new ACC Network, including their home opener against the Clemson Tigers, their April 3 game against the Miami Hurricanes, and their final conference home game May 3 against the Boston College Eagles.
It is a difficult season to predict for Notre Dame. On one hand they have a lot of talent returning this year that is still relatively young. They lost very little after last season and the leadership group is very much still intact. On the other hand though they bring in a new coach. While Garrett has certainly been successful in the past and has had the entirety of fall workouts to become acclimated to the team and players it is a tough position to come into and create an instant winner. A middle of the pack finish in the ACC is certainly possible and the potential is there for more. I think the first few weeks of the season, especially of conference play, will tell us a lot about where Notre Dame will end up this season.