Notre Dame baseball looking to play well in ACC this year
The Notre Dame Baseball team came out swinging in the 2015 campaign, racking up 7 wins in 8 games en route to one of the team’s strongest openings in recent years. Following a disappointing inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2014, the Fighting Irish are looking to step up to the challenge and change the game this year.
The team got more than a taste of the challenges the future held in store for them during last year’s disappointing 22-31 campaign (9-21 ACC). The ACC is one of the most competitive conferences in college baseball, advancing 7 teams (Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), North Carolina, and Virginia) to last year’s NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, in which Virginia became the national runner-up. Added to the ACC mix this year is Louisville. The Cardinals took 7th in the national tournament last season and are certainly going to add an extra level of challenge for Notre Dame in the 2015 season.
Preseason polls were not friendly to the Irish. Baseball Daily picked Notre Dame to finish 6th out of 7 in the ACC’s Atlantic Division in a January 26 preseason article, and the College Baseball Top 25 includes multiple ACC powerhouses, such as No. 1 Virginia, No. 10 Louisville, No. 11 Miami (FL), No. 13 North Carolina, and No. 15 Florida State.
“ACC baseball is going to be very competitive, as it is every year,” freshman Grant Krampe told the Rover. “The Irish are certainly going to have their work cut out for them.”
The daunting prospects of ACC play do not seem to faze Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki. “I am excited about [ACC competition],” Aoki told College Baseball Central. “We have an opportunity to play against the best … I think our guys are going to have to understand about the level of baseball that we are going to face, because there is an element of getting comfortable in playing in this league that players are showing. I think once that happens, things will be what we need.”
Notre Dame is going to rely heavily on Aoki’s strength and expertise. He has over two decades of college baseball experience, has been a head coach since 1999, and is currently 117-112-1 coaching the Irish baseball squad since 2011. Before coming to Notre Dame, Aoki coached at Boston College and Columbia.
Unfortunately for the Irish, Aoki has not had much success in the past in conference play—Columbia was 42-58 in the Ivy League under his charge and Boston College went 48-69 in ACC play during his tenure there. At Notre Dame, Aoki’s team was 37-40 in Big East play.
However, Aoki and the Fighting Irish now look committed to besting their tough schedule and bucking their trend of lackluster conference play. The team’s commanding 7-1 start to the season finds the Irish situated comfortably in first place in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Compared to last season’s 3-5 run to open the season, the prospects for Irish baseball are looking up. Notre Dame consistently bats in more than five runs a game, achieving this accomplishment in all 7 of its wins. The Irish have also scored outscored its opponents by an average of 4.38 runs per game, demonstrating the capacity to lead by safe margins heading into the later innings of the game.
One of the players leading Notre Dame’s stats sheet is sophomore infielder Cavan Biggio. Starting all 8 games so far, Biggio has 11 runs through 31 at bats, boasting a .516 batting average, .839 slugging percentage, and 8 RBIs. He leads the team starters in each of these categories.
Also leading the Irish squad is sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge. Boasting the team’s only home run thus far, Lidge is batting a .400 average with .560 slugging and 7 RBIs. Continued success at the plate will certainly spell success for the team this season.
With a strong start to the season, Mik Aoki and the Fighting Irish will look to build on this strong start and carry their momentum forward through the rest of the season. Watch for Notre Dame to put its hat in the ring and knock this season out of the park.
Kyle Mulholland is a current senior residing off-campus and studying computer science and economics. He thinks that googling “Football scarves” should also yield results for American football. Contact Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.