It shouldn’t be news to you all at this point. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball squad is headed to the College World Series for the first time in 20 years — and for just the third time in program history — after toppling the #1 Tennessee Volunteers over the weekend. The Irish were no scrub underdog, of course, but beating a heavily-favored Vols team in their own stadium was still a move that stunned most of the country, while also providing a massive reason for ND to back up the Brinks truck for head coach Link Jarrett, especially because his alma mater, Florida State, just fired their coach and will most certainly target him for the role.
Now, the Irish will face off against the Texas Longhorns in a bracket full of big-time college football schools this coming weekend, and so in honor of the team’s awesome accomplishments, I figured this would be an excellent time to ask and answer an important and not at all silly question: if we had to build a College World Series-caliber lineup from the Fighting Irish football roster, what would it look like?
Here’s what I’m thinking.
Starting Pitcher: Tyler Buchner
This seems obvious — we need an ace with a good arm and with the talent and confidence to lead the team from the mound. I think on most outings, Buchner could give the team at least 6 quality innings before handing the reins over to the bullpen. Also, bonus points here for being a dual-threat, as he will be exceptionally good at covering the bag on any hits to first base that require it.
Catcher: Michael Mayer
Looking for a College World Series-caliber catcher? How about we just go with the best catcher on the Irish football team! Mayer has the build, the skill, and the reliability to be Buchner’s partner in crime out there, and you just know he’ll be an excellent hitter as well. Dude just does everything at a high level.
First Base: Joe Alt
An absolute no-brainer: we need to give the infield a huge target at first base who has the height, arm length, and athleticism to stretch for errant throws and pick balls out of the dirt if necessary. I gotta think Alt could handle all of that, while also providing a great deal of slugging offensively.
Shortstop: Avery Davis
Obviously you need someone at shortstop who’s got the range and hand-eye coordination to cover lots of ground and field anything, but you also need someone with a strong arm who can make sure once he’s fielded a grounder on the run, that he can fire it over to Joe Alt for the out. Avery Davis will be perfect here as a former quarterback and cornerback who now thrives as a wide receiver, as he’s got the speed, the catching ability, the arm strength, and the maturity/leadership to be the head honcho in the infield. Oh, and he could be a position-player pitcher in a pinch, considering his arm. A perfect fit.
Second Base: Lorenzo Styles, Jr.
At second base I think we’re looking for someone quick, smooth, and reliable who’s going to be able to work with Davis to turn two and who will be able to cover a lot of ground defensively while also being able to get on base and run the bases well offensively. That seems like a great job for Lorenzo Styles Jr., one of the smoothest players on the team who would clearly have the hands and speed to combine with Davis as a lethal 6-4-3 or 4-6-3 combo.
Third Base: Cam Hart
Whom should we choose for the Hot Corner? How about the hottest corner on the team, Cam Hart?? Hart’s emerged as the no-question #1 corner for the Irish heading into the 2022 season, and considering his proclivity for picking off passes, his length, and his past as a wide receiver, I think he would thrive at third base as someone who won’t let any pulled hits by the opposition get by him down the line, and who could whip his long arm fast enough to fire the ball across the diamond and throw a runner out.
Center Field: Chris Tyree
We want a center fielder who can cover a ton of ground out there, and so I think Chris Tyree is the perfect choice. No one on the team is faster, and he’s proven to be a good receiver out of the backfield, meaning he shouldn’t have any issues making the catch on any of the flyballs hit his way. He can also be the leadoff hitter, oftentimes just bunting for a base hit so he can get to first safely and then pull a Willie “Mays” Hayes and steal 2nd, 3rd, and home consecutively whenever the team needs a run.
Left Field: Brandon Joseph
Joseph is going to be a potential All-American at the back of the Irish defense in 2022, and so we certainly want him in the outfield as one of the last lines of defense. He should do well in left, able to track down just about anything hit his way and capable of making the leap at the wall to rob opponents of home runs. He has some experience making those kinds of catches...
Right Field: Marist Liufau
I will openly admit this is partially just because I wanted to work Liufau in SOMEWHERE and didn’t know exactly where, but I also envision him as a sort of Vlad Guerrero in right — just a big, hulking, athletic freak who can track down most fly balls hit his way because he’s got great speed, but then has the size and strength to rocket the ball to third or home and gun runners down if they get greedy. I bet he could bring some Vlad-esque power and hitting ability to the offensive side as well, and would have some sweet celebrations/bat flips when he inevitably takes an opposing pitcher yard.
Designated Hitter: Isaiah Foskey
Who else would be my choice as the designated hitter than the guy I would most want hitting the opposing team’s QB on the gridiron? Foskey can bat for Buchner and he will be an absolute machine, considering the power and surprising speed he will wield at the plate and on the base paths.
Middle Reliever: Drew Pyne
Of course our go-to reliever for the 5th/6th/7th innings is going to be Mr. Pyne, who is now used to having to occasionally come in and try to clean up a mess or keep the good times going after a few different instances of being call on to do that last football season. He’s also got the swagger and confidence to get us out of a jam if Buchner ever gets us into one, so I gotta think this is the perfect role for him on this team.
Setup Man: Deion Colzie
I have nothing to really back this up except for Colzie’s height and length — I feel like if you put this dude on the mound in the 8th, he’s going to intimidate some folks and get the outs we need to bridge the gap to the 9th. Plus, you know he’s got the wingspan and hands to make any plays with his glove you would need from him, especially on anything hit right back at him.
Closer: Steve Angeli
The Blue-Gold Game said it all — Steve Angeli is a CLOSER.
Pinch Hitter for Power: Audric Estime
Need to toss someone into the game to potentially smack a dinger? Estime seems like a perfect option, as I imagine he could, on command, launch a home run about 500 feet and then trot around the bases flexing all his insanely huge muscles as the crowd goes bananas late in a game.
He can also be the first guy off the bus, just to put the fear of God into any and all CWS opponents in Omaha.
Pinch Hitter for Contact/To Get On Base: Jarrett Patterson
Ole reliable — I think Patterson, if we needed, could be inserted cold into the order and give us a great, smart, patient at-bat where he either slaps a base hit oppo or manages to draw a walk, never needing to do too much or be the hero, instead choosing to be a leader who will get done what needs to get done.
Pinch Runner: Braden Lenzy
Once Patterson gets on, we will need someone with some speed to step in for him, and I gotta think the former track star Lenzy would be perfect. I’m not sure he would add that much as a hitter, but I’m positive he could absolutely fly around the bases when needed and could be inserted defensively into the outfield as well.
Other Pitchers in the Rotation or Bullpen: Ron Powlus III, Jack Kiser, Jaden Mickey, Blake Fisher, Jayson Ademilola, Bo Bauer, Logan Diggs, Jadarian Price
Powlus is a QB, so he’s got the arm and accuracy throwing things to do it. Kiser feels like a reliable, meat-and-potatoes pitcher who can get you some outs. Mickey has the swagger and confidence to pitch some quality innings as a true freshman. Fisher and Ademilola would be Bartolo Colon-esque dudes out there, tossing fireballs and offering a surprising amount of hitting ability if they need to bat. Bo Bauer’s hair would be feathered and lethal while staring down opposing batters, so that’s a fit. And then Diggs and Price both seem like confident, talented young guys who could be called upon to eat up some innings when needed.
Manager: Marcus Freeman
Pitching Coach: Tommy Rees
First Base Coach: Harry Hiestand
Third Base Coach: Chansi Stuckey
Alright folks, that’s the ND football CWS squad I’m rolling with if I’m going to Omaha — make sure you chime in in the comments if you’ve got any differing opinions (as I’m sure you do).
Otherwise, Go Irish, Beat Longhorns, let’s go win us a baseball natty, boys!!!!