April 2012 Archives
Major League Baseball has day-night doubleheaders, and today, Arlotta Stadium had one too. The Notre Dame women's and men's lacrosse teams closed out impressive regular season on Saturday, knocking off BIG EAST foes Cincinnati and Syracuse, respectively. First-year head coach Christine Halfpenny's squad kicked off the day with a dominant 22-2 win over the Bearcats. The Irish honored eight seniors on the field before the game, including Brittany Mallory, who's much better known for her accomplishments on the hardwood. Mallory joined the lacrosse team earlier this month, and to the delight of fans in attendance (especially her basketball teammates), she netted the first goal of her collegiate career from a free position shot with just six seconds remaining. Thirteen players scored for Notre Dame, led by junior Jenny Granger and sophomores Lauren Sullivan and Lindsay Powell, who each recorded hat tricks. Senior Maggie Tamasitis had six assists to go along with one goal. With the win, the Fighting Irish improved to 13-3 overall and finished 6-2 in conference play. They will play second-seeded Loyola (Md.) on Thursday at 5:30 pm on CBS Sports Network in the BIG EAST semifinals. In the nightcap, the Irish men's lacrosse team picked up its first win over Syracuse in program history, winning an exciting 8-6 game before a capacity crowd of 4,522. The packed house braved the cold in support of the Irish and their twelve seniors making their final home appearance. Led by Ryan Foley's pair of goals, seven players scored for Notre Dame, as the Irish clinched their first-ever BIG EAST regular season title. Head coach Kevin Corrigan's team finishes the season with an 11-1 record, including a 6-0 mark in the conference. The Irish have won ten in a row since dropping a 4-3 overtime decision against Penn State on Feb. 26. Notre Dame's postseason journey begins on Thursday at Villanova when it takes on St. John's in the BIG EAST conference semifinals. That game will begin at 4:30 pm ET and air on ESPNU. Stay tuned to UND.com for more from Notre Dame's outstanding season finale at Arlotta Stadium. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Everyone knew former Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd was a sure-thing first rounder, but it was Minnesota's selection at pick #29 that turned a good night into a great night for Irish fans. It all started when Arizona chose Floyd with pick #13, making him the highest Notre Dame selection since Bryant Young was drafted seventh in 1994. Floyd will join fellow Twin Cities native Larry Fitzgerald, setting up what could be a very impressive wide receiver tandem for the Cardinals. About an hour and a half later, the Minnesota Vikings continued what is beginning to look like a push to be renamed 'Notre Dame North,' selecting 2011 Irish captain Harrison Smith with pick #29. The safety will team up with center John Sullivan ('07) and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson ('07) in Minneapolis. In the age of Twitter, it was great to see the hundreds of tweets from students, fans and local media congratulating the former Irish stars. But more so, I enjoyed seeing those from current and former Notre Dame players celebrating the great news. Having gotten to know Mike and Harrison a bit during my time at Notre Dame, I was awfully happy to see their NFL dreams come true on night one of this year's draft. I can only imagine how their Irish teammates felt, having become like their brothers over the past four years. From Manti Te'o to Matt Mulvey to Kapron Lewis-Moore, many could hardly put their excitement into words. Let's hope this trend of Irish success continues when the NFL Draft resumes on Friday. For all the facts and figures surrounding tonight's draft picks, check out UND.com for the official Floyd and Smith press releases. Follow @NDHardin (Notre Dame Director of Football Media Relations Brian Hardin) on Twitter for much more on the Irish in the NFL Draft, as seven other hopefuls await their football future this weekend. - Josh Flynt ('11)
If you have ever had a chance to meet Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C or visit his office on the thirteenth floor of the library that bears his name, you immediately realize you are in the presence of one of the truly great leaders of our time. Father Hesburgh led the university for 35 years and has been awarded more than 150 honorary degrees in his lifetime, more than any other person. In just over a month, he will celebrate his 95th birthday. His office is not as athletic-centric as Dick Wilson's basement from the premiere episode, but featuring Father Hesburgh for 'Domer Dens' was an opportunity that Fighting Irish Digital Media could not pass up. Check out Episode 2 of 'Domer Dens' for a unique look not just at some of the keepsakes that Father Hesburgh has accumulated during his life, but more so, his personal reflections and the incredible stories behind them. - Josh Flynt ('11)
"...doesn't want to embarrass anybody yet..."
"I just have one thing to say to Tim - 'You're huge!'"
"Kenneth - King of the Front Handspring"Through the Irish Experience League the Notre Dame community takes the fun, spirit and values inherent in Notre Dame Sports to the community. Volunteers include varsity student-athletes, faculty, staff and students as the Notre Dame family grows stronger through community building in South Bend. Learn more about the Irish Experience League at youthsports.nd.edu.
"Notre Dame Team Wiped Out With With Hesburgh at the Helm"
Notre Dame hits the midpoint of the BIG EAST season this weekend, sitting at the .500 mark in conference play. The Irish head to Georgetown, trying to do something our politicians can't...get something done in Washington, D.C. I'm no Karl Rove or David Axelrod, but here are the issues I think the Irish should focus on in order to get a landslide victory. Reduce the deficit: It's great the Irish have shown THE ability to comeback from four runs down. It would be even better not to put themselves in those situations. Mik Aoki has directly challenged his team to play with more urgency from the outset of games. They did it Friday night against Cincinnati, but it has to happen more than once a week. Focus on the economy....of pitches. Normally, the Irish starters are strike throwers, but that wasn't the case last weekend. Will Hudgins wasn't his usual sharp self, falling behind in counts. Pat Connaughton needed 80 pitches to get through just four innings. He frequently seemed to be overthrowing, and not following through. Finding the strike zone will result in fewer pitches and longer starts. Strengthen the defense...The shortstop position has accounted for 20 errors in 35 games, and that's one reason for the increased pitch count. The pitchers have to help their own cause, though. They have made six errors, most frequently on bunts. Georgetown has some speedsters in Justin Leeson and Rand Ravnaas who like to bunt for hits, so Notre Dame better be prepared for small ball. Find renewable energy...It's not surprising a young team like the Irish might be hitting a wall at this point of the year. 35 games is a full high school season, but there's still six weeks to go in the college season. The week off from games may help the youngsters, as well as junior catcher Joe Hudson, who has been behind the plate for every game but one this year. Emphasize health care...Charlie Markson should be fully recovered from his virus. Trey Mancini is expected to be back from the wrist contusion. Even Hudson's thumb which has been hurting since early in the season should be a little better. Be aware of a foreign power...Georgetown used to be the BIG EAST doormat, but Peter Wilk has the best team he's had in 15 years on the Hill. The Hoyas enter the weekend above .500 and just a game behind Notre Dame in the conference. Leeson is a quality leadoff man with speed, Ravnaas is a legitimate all-BIG EAST selection, and Stanford transfer Mike Garza is an offensive force. Pitching and defense continue to be a problem for the Hoyas. They allow five earned runs per game and have committed 60 errors. The Irish need to be the aggressor and make Georgetown feel more like North Korea. Don't be distracted by anything else...the bucolic setting of Shirley Povich Field, throwback uniforms and the like. These are the issues that are important. It will require sweat, effort and sacrifice (both bunts and flies). But as a team...together everyone achieving more...victory can be achieved for God, country and Notre Dame! - Chuck Freeby ('86)
Once again, a Notre Dame athlete has found himself one of the 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. After women's basketball player Natalie Novosel and hockey player Sean Lorenz were named finalists earlier this year, Kevin Randall has earned a spot on the list of lacrosse nominees for the prestigious award as well. The Lowe's Senior CLASS Award - an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School - recognizes seniors for their loyalty to their schools, as well as excellence with regard to community, classroom, character and competition. Randall has accumulated a 3.542 grade-point average while pursuing a civil engineering degree. Along with captaining the Irish defense, the senior also spends his time volunteering at the Perley Fine Arts Academy. "I don't get a lot of sleep, which is the first thing," Randall says in explaining his workload. "At Notre Dame it's about so much more than just being a lacrosse player. It's also about the education you can receive and the influence Notre Dame has throughout the nation, and specifically this community. "It's something that drew me here." In his four years at Notre Dame, Randall has developed into one of the leaders of the fifth-ranked Irish. In his first couple years with the team, he was able to learn from upperclassmen who shaped his own progression as a leader. "There have always been guys that have been great players and also great role models and teachers on the field. So I've had the good fortune of playing with those guys," says Randall. "And also Coach (Gerry) Byrne has been one of the best assistant coaches in college lacrosse, so I've had the benefit of playing for him and learning from him." Randall will learn if he is the winner of the award at the Division I finals, which will be held May 26 and 28. It will be all the more satisfying if the Irish are playing on that last day of the postseason, though. "Interestingly enough, we don't set a team goal of winning a national championship," Randall says. "We think that if we work hard every day and improve every day, that will take us where we need to be. " The winner of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award is decided through voting by fans, coaches and the media. Fans are encouraged to vote at seniorclassaward.com/lacrosse. - Craig Chval ('15)
They're less than two weeks into the young MLB season, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have already been hampered by a slew of key injuries. While it might be tough news for D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, it has presented former Notre Dame standout A.J. Pollock with a special opportunity. The Hebron, Conn. native was called up from Triple-A Reno last night, and could make his MLB debut today or tomorrow. Pollock was hitting .340 through 12 games with the Aces. Nick Piecoro has more in the Arizona Republic. Notre Dame assistant director of media relations and baseball sports information director Michael Bertsch (@NDsidBertschy) also uncovered some great data on the Irish in the big leagues. Pollock's debut will make him the 73rd former Irish player to appear in the MLB, seventh-most from any school, and first among those in the BIG EAST. Total Players in MLB History (NCAA)
Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.
We're just eight days away from the 2012 NFL Draft, with nine former Notre Dame football players hoping to get the call that will change their lives. One of the those NFL hopefuls is safety Harrison Smith, the 2011 Irish captain. Smith is expected by many to be a second round pick, but some draft pundits also believe he could be a late first rounder.The Green Bay Packers, who have the 28th pick, may be one of the teams interested in the Knoxville, Tenn. native. Their former Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins underwent neck surgery during the 2011 season, and is still waiting to hear from doctors before he decides on his playing future. The Packers finished the regular season with a 15-1 record, but fell to the New York Giants in the divisional playoffs. Smith is one player who may be able to help a secondary that struggled for much of the 2011 campaign. Tyler Dunne has more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
At a sturdy 6 feet 2 inches and 213 pounds, Smith is intelligent, long and fast. He's one player who may be capable of covering today's athletic tight end. Throughout his meetings with teams, that has been the hot topic. "There's a big tight end in every division that dominated last year," Smith said. "Nobody found a great way to stop it without leaving other things open. So that's something people are definitely focused on. "How do you stop these big, athletic guys? I think the best way to stop them is with bigger, athletic safeties that match up better with them. It's hard to put a corner on them. It's hard to put a linebacker on them. A bigger safety who can run with them and make plays on the ball is something teams put a lot of value on."Visit JSonline.com for the full article, and tune in to next weekend's draft to see where Smith and his Irish teammates wind up.
Yesterday afternoon, Notre Dame deputy director of athletics Bill Scholl was introduced as the director of intercollegiate athletics at Ball State in Muncie, Ind. A 1979 Notre Dame graduate, Bill has served the athletic department at his alma mater for more than two decades, most recently responsible for senior-level administration, including fundraising and donor relations, divisional budget construction and growing external revenue. Bill was also the sport administrator for football team, working with head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish program on a daily basis. As seen in the photo above from last October's game against USC, Bill presented a plaque at halftime to 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, commemorating the Irish great's selection as one of six recipients for the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award. Having only worked in the department since August, I cannot speak much of Bill's contributions to Notre Dame, but I know his numerous accomplishments have been instrumental in developing our university's athletic programs. Several Notre Dame colleagues also expressed their well wishes on Twitter, including director of football media relations Brian Hardin and und.com's Jack Nolan. In the short time that I have known Bill, his door has always been open and he has had the best interest of the university community and student-athletes at heart - two characteristics that will undoubtedly contribute to his success when he begins at Ball State at the end of the month. For more on Bill's new opportunity, check out the official press release on UND.com. Thanks, Bill. Good luck leading the Cardinals.
This afternoon, Notre Dame senior Natalie Novosel and graduate student Devereaux Peters are at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. for the 2012 WNBA Draft. Their Fighting Irish playing days are over, but the all-BIG EAST first team selections were each top-10 draft picks, with Peters being selected third by the Minnesota Lynx and Novosel going eighth to the Washington Mystics. Novosel was recently featured in an article by Andrew Lovell on ESPNW.com. Here's an excerpt from the nice story:
Natalie Novosel collected the loose ball at the top of the key, drove past the taller defender in front of her and set her sights on the basket. It wouldn't be that easy. Another taller player stepped up, met Novosel in the air and challenged the layup. "Foul," Novosel said. "All ball," the defender shot back. In a move born of frustration, Novosel picked up the ball and fired it at the player's head. You see, Novosel doesn't hate losing. She despises it. It's a trait her family realized early in her basketball career. The perimeter defender? That was older sister Shannon, who stands 6-foot-1. The interior defender? That was 6-foot-5 twin brother Nate. And the above scenario -- with and without the hurling of the basketball -- played out thousands of times in the Novosels' backyard in Lexington, Ky.Visit ESPNW.com to read the whole article, and get ready to cheer on the former Irish stars when the WNBA season starts in mid-May.
It's only mid-April, but on Friday evening, the Notre Dame cheerleading squad hosted a football pep rally in The Pit at the Joyce Center. Actually, there were several mini rallies as seven Notre Dame students tried out to be the shillelagh-holding, green-clad face of the Fighting Irish. Hundreds of students (and even a few Notre Dame Coaches Clinic participants) came out to the basketball practice facility in support of their friends and classmates trying out to be the next Notre Dame leprechaun. Events like this that remind you of the passionate spirit of the Notre Dame student body. Homemade t-shirts, thunderstix, but mostly good, old-fashioned cheering made for a great atmosphere, and had everyone thinking about football season (which by the way, is 137 days away). The tryouts began with each of the seven leprechaun hopefuls leading the crowd through a mock pep rally for the Purdue game, the first home football contest on the 2012 schedule (Sept. 8, 3:30 pm ET, Notre Dame Stadium - mark your calendar). Outgoing senior, or perhaps leprechaun emeritus Mike George emceed the event, putting the competitors on the spot and asking them to 'introduce' famous Notre Dame personalities as guest speakers - everyone from two-time Super Bowl champion Justin Tuck ('05) to women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw. George also presented each of the leprechauns with a scenario - the band has finished playing, the fans are waiting, the team has yet to arrive and the pep rally is broadcast nationally on NBC. How are you going to keep everyone entertained? Afterwards, WNDU sports reporter Angelo Di Carlo grilled each student in a mock live interview, asking if the Irish can return to football dominance and why he or she should be selected as the 2012-13 leprechaun. The Fighting Irish expect to light up the scoreboard this fall, so of course, the tryouts concluded with a push-up contest. After the team of judges deliberated for a couple hours on Friday evening, junior Bryce Burton was selected as the new Gold Squad leprechaun for football and men's basketball. Burton was the Blue Squad leprechaun this past year, cheering for soccer and women's hoops. Sophomore Johnny Romano will take Burton's place on the Blue Squad and junior Louis Ganser will cheer for the new Green Squad. All in all, a great evening at The Pit, and a nice promotion for the leprechaun who helped cheer Coach McGraw's squad all the way to the national championship game in Denver. Check out an interview with Burton on WNDU. - Josh Flynt ('11)
It was all Orange this afternoon at Melissa Cook Stadium. And that's not to say Syracuse got a big victory. In fact, it was Notre Dame that emerged with a 4-3 win in the first game of a BIG EAST conference doubleheader. Orange was the color of the afternoon because Syracuse was decked out in it from head to toe, but also because the Fighting Irish uniforms were accented with orange for leukemia awareness. Notre Dame held its second annual Strike Out Cancer event to help raise money for the South Bend Memorial Hospital Pediatric Hematology / Oncology Program. Pediatric leukemia is a disease that has closely affected Irish softball, as head coach Deanna Gumpf's daughter, Tatum, was diagnosed in 2010. Now six years old, Tatum is on her way to a full recovery. Among the activities at this afternoon's event were balloon animals, facepainting, and a silent auction. Some of the items being auctioned off include two pre-game sideline passes and game tickets for Notre Dame football game against Michigan, replica commemorative Strike Out Cancer jerseys and game-worn commemorative helmets and gloves. After trailing for much of the game, the Fighting Irish tied the score in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run from Katey Haus, before walking off with a win in the seventh when Kelsey Thornton scored from third on a wild pitch. Notre Dame and Syracuse return to the field in a few minutes for the second game of the afternoon. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Picture this: a 22-year old Springfield College graduate sells his Jeep, buys a motorcycle, straps a few possessions to the back of it and rides more than 1,600 miles from Massachusetts to Texas, in search of a coaching position. Bob Wager's life sounds like a plot line from Friday Night Lights, and that's because twenty years ago, H.G Bissinger's book inspired him to make a life-changing journey to the mecca of high school football. The Arlington Martin High School head coach spoke at the Notre Dame Coaches Clinic on Saturday morning, focusing on 'Winning the Turnover Battle.' Beyond the X's and O's and strategy of football, Wager's career is a very captivating story - from junior high coach, all the way up the ranks of Texas football from 1-A through 5-A. Like those who presented before him, Coach Wager could not say enough about the impact his coaches had on his development as a person and football player. Having lost his father at a young age, Wager specifically mentioned his high school head coach Barry Clawson, a mentor whom he keeps in touch with to this day. (Interestingly for me, Wager originally hails from Johnstown, N.Y., about 40 miles from my hometown and one of the high schools we used to compete against before changing conferences). Coach Wager also described how honored he was to speak at Notre Dame and how blessed he felt to be able to make the trip with four of his assistant coaches - Clifton Odom, Casey Thompson, Tim Mays and Ronnie Jones. Though he's not Coach Eric Taylor, watching his presentation featuring clips from drills and practices, turf fields and high school stadiums, it felt like Matt Saracen or Tim Riggins might appear at any moment. For more on Wager's story, check out Corbett Smith's article from The Dallas Morning News. The 2012 Notre Dame Coaches Clinic comes to an end later today with the football team's twelfth practice of the spring. To see photos and more on this year's clinic, check out the Coaches Clinic Facebook page. - Josh Flynt ('11)
On Super Bowl Sunday, Clint Eastwood declared "it's halftime in America," a rallying speech intended to get the public fired up about buying cars in Detroit.
It's just a little bit past halftime in the Notre Dame baseball season, and the Irish need something to get them fired up right now. They've lost five in a row, seven of their last eight, and it seems nothing is going right.
I'm here to tell you that can all change this weekend. This isn't Pollyanna speak. I don't wear rose-colored glasses as I write this.
The main thing Notre Dame is missing right now is confidence.
You can see it in every move they don't make, every step they don't take. Confident teams don't hesitate going after balls in the outfield. Confident teams don't hesitate running the bases. Confident teams shrug off mistakes, rather than dwelling on them.
This is not a confident bunch right now. The weekend sweep at Seton Hall left deep marks on the psyche of this team, and they are still thinking about things that happened a week ago.
They need to think about what happened a month ago.
They need to think back to that Sunday night at Alex Box Stadium when 10,000 people thought they were showing up for an Irish wake, and instead watched Notre Dame not just beat LSU, but whip them 7-1. They need to remember they made errors in that game and bounced back with double plays. They need to remember they had enough speed to pressure a top 10 team into making mistakes on bunts. They need to remember that when everyone expected them to fail, they delivered clutch two-out hits.
What has changed about that team? Injuries and illness to Trey Mancini and Charlie Markson? They're coming back. No, the difference is this squad between then and now is only the pressure they put on themselves. That Notre Dame team took the field relaxed with no pretense. Now it looks as though every at-bat, every pitch and every ground ball carries the weight of the world with it.
To a certain extent, the Irish need to adopt the Rhett Butler approach and frankly, not give a blank. That's not playing with apathy... it's just not playing with pressure. It's playing loose, letting it rip, and if you make a mistake, forget about it and move on to the next pitch.
The last place team in the BIG EAST, the Cincinnati Bearcats, are coming to town. They've lost seven one-run games and a pair of two-run games, so they've had their hearts not only broken, but picked apart like Play-Doh. Their marquee win came over Pittsburgh, the next-to-last team in the conference. Brian Cleary's 11-21 squad is having a tough season, and they're not going to play with any pressure on them.
The Irish need to respond in kind.
t's much too early to say this season is "Gone with the Wind." It's only halftime in South Bend. Confidence can be built anew just like an American car, and the Irish can start rolling on the winning track again.
Earlier this morning, head coach Brian Kelly spoke with more than 630 guests for the 2012 Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic at the Purcell Pavilion. Coach Kelly addressed visitors from New York, California, Canada and everywhere in between. I had a chance to catch the last few minutes of Coach Kelly's presentation, where he talked specifically about the program's 'A-Team' philosophy. To understand a bit more about 'The A-Team,' the Isban Auditorium at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex underwent a bit of a facelift during spring break. The minor renovation added several signs to the Gug, making it recognizable to all visitors that they have arrived at the home of Notre Dame football. Three of these signs focus on 'The A-Team,' a set of principles the Irish are focused on as they prepare for the 2012 season - accountability, appreciation and achievement. The first 'A' that Coach Kelly talked about was accountability. More specifically, peer accountability, players holding one another to high standards, and having the courage to tell teammates when they have failed to live up to those expectations. From on-field attitude, to work ethic in the classroom to character in the community, Coach Kelly and his staff expect a lot from their players, as they rightfully should at the University of Notre Dame. From top to bottom, senior captain to freshman walk-on, every member of the Irish football program is held accountable to these expectations. Coach Kelly also addressed appreciation, saying he did not want to sound as if he were giving a sermon, but that he expects his players to recognize all that they have here at Notre Dame. They have the God-given talent to play Division I football, the ability to earn a college education, and a chance to represent their university, community, family and friends. Players have to 'come to work everyday' with this in mind, never to lose sight of their opportunities. The Irish head coach finished the 'A-Team' portion of his presentation by talking about achievement. The Notre Dame football program seeks to go 'beyond the call of duty,' striving for excellence in everything and every way. Coach Kelly stressed that both the head and the heart have to be committed to the team and doing everything necessary to succeed. Coach Kelly also compared 'building a team' to 'building a program.' When you're building a team he said, you go out to get the best players you can find, and you will have a few great seasons. But when you're building a program and seeking to achieve sustained success, recruiting players has to be about much more than their rankings and football accolades. You have to determine if the student-athlete understands where he is going, if he's trustworthy, if he's committed to the challenge and if he exemplifies the character traits you want represented in your players. Finally, Kelly said he and his assistant coaches "lay their cards on the table" when talking to recruits, explaining to them and their families what Notre Dame is all about. At the end, it often boils down to how a player answers the question - Can you picture yourself here at Notre Dame? Student-athletes and their families have to decide: Is Notre Dame the right fit? It's perfect for some. It's not for others. That's the way it works, at just about every college. The 2012 Notre Dame Coaches Clinic continues throughout the day and into tomorrow at the Purcell Pavilion. Participants have a chance to hear presentations from all the Irish assistant coaches, as well as several featured guests, including Greg McMahon, the special teams coach for the New Orleans Saints, and Tim Murphy, head coach of the Harvard Crimson. For more on this year's coaches clinic, check out the Notre Dame Football Camps Facebook page. - Josh Flynt ('11)
This Saturday, April 14, the Notre Dame softball team is hosting its Second Annual Strike Out Cancer for Pediatric Leukemia event. The Fighting Irish host Syracuse for a BIG EAST conference doubleheader beginning at noon ET at Melissa Cook Stadium, but there will also be various events throughout the day. A pre-game ceremony will honor Memorial Children's Hospital patients battling cancer. During the games, a silent auction will be held with items including 2 pre-game sideline passes and game tickets for the Notre Dame vs. Michigan football game on September 22nd. Other items include replica commemorative Strike Out Cancer jerseys (the Irish uniforms will feature orange, the 'color' associated with leukemia awareness), game worn commemorative helmets and gloves. There will be balloon animals, face-painting and a dunk tank during the game, and after game one, a 'Chuck-a-duck' competition in the pitcher's circle. After the doubleheader, any fans in attendance can register for the on-field home run derby, with the winner receiving a flat screen television. All proceeds benefit Memorial Children's Hospital Pediatric Oncology Clinic. Pediatric leukemia is a disease the Notre Dame softball team holds close to its heart. The Strike Out Cancer event was started last year in honor of Tatum Gumpf, head coach Deanna Gumpf's daugther who is battling cancer. Coach Gumpf's story was recently featured in the athletic department's 'Strong of Heart' book, which is available online and at the Hammes Bookstore. For more information visit, UND.com. Come out on Saturday to support the cause, and the Irish, as they seek to improve upon their 4-1 BIG EAST start and 7-0 record at home. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Notre Dame returns to the Frank Eck Stadium diamond this evening, in a non-conference matchup against Western Michigan. UND.com will stream the game live at 5:35 pm ET, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's Irish baseball action. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
The Chicago Cubs picked up their first win of the season on Sunday, thanks to a strong performance on the mound from former Notre Dame wide receiver/pitcher Jeff Samardzija. The righty from Vaparaiso, Ind. pitched 8.2 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, while striking out eight.
This is the Cubs we're talking about, so naturally, the game was more dramatic than expected. Samardzija looked poised for a complete game one-run performance, before a two-out error and a two-run home run made it a 4-3 game.
Here's an excerpt from Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. See the entire article on the South Bend Tribune website:
As Wrigleyville held its breath, closer Carlos Marmol came in and walked the first batter, conjuring up memories of the first two blown games by the Cubs' bullpen. But Marmol induced Xaver Nady to pop out, ending a dramatic 4-3 win before 31,973 at Wrigley Field. For Samardzija, the nail-biting win was about as sweet as it gets. "I really feel like I have a chip on my shoulders, because I've talked a big game about wanting to start and made it public," Samardzija said. "I don't want to look like an idiot."Samardzija is expected to start again on Friday when the Cubs open a weekend series at the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Ninth-ranked Notre Dame returns to the field this evening at 7:00 pm ET when it takes on #2 Syracuse in a BIG EAST conference game at Arlotta Stadium. The game will be broadcast on CBS College Sports Network, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's game too. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation, as the Fighting Irish look to bounce back from last week's loss at Loyola. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
Since the Irish wore the throwback uniforms last week - and I wore the throwback fedora - let me share a throwback moment with you. Prior to my first season as a hockey broadcaster 20 years ago, I had stopped in to chat with Notre Dame hockey coach Ric Schafer. I wanted to know the sport I would be broadcasting better, so I asked him "what's the one thing every hockey fan should know that they don't?" Ric didn't hesitate. He replied quickly "It's a very simple game. It's a race to four. If you get to four, you win 95 percent of the time." In hockey, it's four. For Notre Dame's baseball team, the magic number is six. When the Irish hold teams to five runs or less this year, they are 14-1. Let me repeat that ... 14-1 when the opponent scores five or less. That's 93 percent of the time, and good enough for me. The staff earned run average is 3.97, so it stands to reason if the Irish don't give the other team help, an average outing should be enough to earn a win. And another stat backs that up. When Notre Dame makes one error or none, they are 15-5. In fact, there are very few innings where the other team is scoring without some help from the Irish. Over the last 10 games, there have been 25 different innings when the opponent has scored. 20 of those innings featured at least one walk or error. And at the risk of deluging you in statistics, here's one from the Irish offense that bears mentioning. When the Irish are successful, it's because the bottom of the order helps the cause. Over those last 10 games, the bottom third of the Irish order (usually Alex Robinson, Charlie Markson and the shortstop of the day) is 21-for-69 (.304) in seven wins and 5-for-29 (.172) in three losses. When those 7-8-9 hitters do something, Notre Dame's lineup is formidable. As Durham Bulls manager Joe Riggins once told his lollygagging team, "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball." When the Irish do those things, they are tough to beat. That's good news heading into a weekend series with Seton Hall, a team that has really struggled at the plate this year. The defending Big East tournament champs are 13-14 overall, 2-4 in league play. They can beat good teams, as evidenced by a 5-2 win at Virginia. They can lose to bad teams, such as a 3-1 home loss to St. Peter's. The inconsistency is mainly because the Pirates are batting .237 as a team. Seton Hall plays in the biggest park in America east of Yellowstone (it's about an eighth of a mile to right center) so Rob Sheppard's team plays small ball to manufacture runs ... bunting, stealing bases. That means the Irish bunt defense, which has been everywhere from nifty to non-existent, needs to be ready. On the mound, Seton Hall has a bonafide ace in Jon Prosinski, but relies heavily on the bullpen after that. With a staff ERA even lower than Notre Dame's (3.73), the Pirates would like to make this a low-scoring series. A Notre Dame team much worse than this one swept the Pirates in South Orange two years ago. A series win is definitely doable, and a must if the Irish have conference title aspirations. The race to six is on. It's a very simple game. - Chuck Freeby ('86)
Tim Andree ('83) played basketball for head coach Digger Phelps from 1979-83. Today, Andree works in TriBeCa where he leads global operations for Dentsu. Headquartered in Japan, Dentsu is one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. His son, Tim Jr. ('10) followed in his footsteps, attending Notre Dame and earning a walk-on spot on the basketball team. Andree was recently featured in a profile by Kunur Patel for Advertising Age. The article focuses on the work he has been doing with Dentsu, but also includes some background on his basketball career. Here's an excerpt:
He no longer plays ball because of a bum knee, but his love for the sport is palpable on a rainy Wednesday evening at Madison Square Garden, where a somewhat damp Mr. Andree miraculously folds himself into a stadium seat. (He travels without an umbrella. He says he's never found one big enough.) Tim Jr., 23 and the oldest of six, is also at the game. He too played basketball for Notre Dame, and his college roommate Luke Harangody, now a Cleveland Cavalier, is playing the home team. Spectators making their way to their seats eye the elder Mr. Andree curiously, searching his face, trying to determine whether he's a retired basketball star.Click here to check out the rest of the article.
Twice each year, Notre Dame students suit up for the career fair at the Joyce Center. Today, nine former Fighting Irish football players had their own job fair, except instead of business attire and resumes, it was adidas shorts, spandex and agility drills. Robert Blanton, Taylor Dever, Darius Fleming, Michael Floyd, Gary Gray, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, David Ruffer and Harrison Smith worked out at the annual Notre Dame Football Pro Day at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and Loftus Sports Center. The day began at approximately 11 a.m. in the Haggar Fitness Complex at "the Gug," where height and weight measurements, vertical jump, broad jump and bench press were all conducted. Afterwards, Pro Day moved to Meyo Field in the adjoining Loftus Sports Center, where the 40-yard dash, pro agility (20-yard shuttle), 60-yard shuttle, three-cone drill and position-specific drills took place. Representatives from 27 of 32 NFL teams were in attendance, including several position coaches, coordinators and scouts, as well as two general managers and two head coaches. This afternoon, I spoke with Notre Dame director of football media relations Brian Hardin, who provided me with a few notes on the Irish:
- Robert Blanton posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds, a time that would have ranked as the fourth-fastest by a safety at the NFL Combine this year. Among cornerbacks, Blanton's 4.53 time would have tied for 12th. Of note is that the top two cornerbacks on most NFL mock drafts - LSU's Morris Claiborne and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick - ran similar times to Blanton at the NFL Combine. Claiborne ran the 10th fastest time (4.50) while Kirkpatrick was right behind him and barely ahead of Blanton at 4.51 seconds. - Taylor Dever's broad jump distance of 8'9" would have tied him for sixth at the NFL Combine. Dever, who attended the NFL Combine, improved his times in the 40-yard dash (from 5.46 at the Combine to 5.34) and pro agility (from 4.90 to 4.71). - Darius Fleming posted two very quick times and helped his draft stock at the Pro Day. Fleming's 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds would have ranked third among linebackers at the NFL Combine and his 11.58 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle would have been the fourth-fastest among LBs. He also ranked in the top seven in bench press, pro agility (20-yard shuttle) and the three-cone drill at the Combine. - Jonas Gray improved his bench press numbers from 20 at the NFL Combine to 22 today. Even more impressive was the fact Gray ran and cut on the practice field while catching passes, despite being less than five months removed from knee surgery. - Trevor Robinson made the most of his opportunity as he recorded numbers that would have placed him among offensive linemen in the top 10 in four different categories. Robinson would have been the only offensive lineman at the NFL Combine to have ranked in the top 10 in vertical jump (30"; t-8th), broad jump (8'9"; t-6th), bench press (31; t-8th) and 40-yard dash (5.22; 8th). - David Ruffer made 13 of 15 field goals and many of his kickoffs landed in the endzone. - Harrison Smith's 60-yard shuttle time of 11.52 seconds would have been the fastest time by a safety at the NFL Combine. - NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock attended the Pro Day and offered his thoughts: "I think the two guys that really helped themselves in terms of 40 times and measurables are Blanton and Fleming. They both ran in the mid-4.5. I've been a believer for a long time." - Mayock on the draft prospects of Michael Floyd: "In my book he is (the best receiver in the Draft). If you take the off-the-field stuff away from Michael Floyd and just watch the tape, I think he compares very, very favorably to Justin Blackmon. In my opinion, I think Jacksonville at [No.] 7 starts his interest. I don't think he gets past 16 with the Jets. I think there are some teams like Chicago hanging down there at 19 that would love to have Michael Floyd." - Mayock on the draft prospects of Harrison Smith: "I think Mark Barron, the safety from Alabama, is in the top 20. Harrison should be the next safety. I see him late first round, but probably the top half of the second round. He's 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with great movement skills. Somebody's going to get a steal with Harrison Smith." - The quarterback that threw passes to Floyd and Jonas Gray during the position drills was former Notre Dame QB and current Carolina Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen.The 2012 NFL Draft begins with the first round on Thursday, April 26. Rounds two and three will held on Friday, with rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
Notre Dame returns to the diamond this evening, in a non-conference matchup against Toledo. UND.com will stream the game live at 5:35 pm ET, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's Irish baseball action. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
One more. It all comes down to this, the final college basketball game of the season. Notre Dame and Baylor will clash in Denver, in what has all the makings of a memorable finale. Two No. 1 seeds, one looking to close out an undefeated and historic season, the other hoping to take care of some unfinished business, dating back to this time last year. Get excited. Here are ten things to know before the big game:
Day/TimeTuesday, April 3. 6:43 pm MT (8:43 ET).
Tale of the Tape#4 Notre Dame (#1 seed in Raleigh Region) - 35-3 overall, 15-1 BIG EAST
#1 Baylor (#1 seed in Des Moines Region) - 39-0 overall, 18-0 Big 12
BroadcastTV - ESPN/ESPN3. Dave O'Brien (play-by-play), Doris Burke (color), Holly Rowe (sideline) and Rebecca Lobo (sideline).
Radio - Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and UND.com. Bob Nagle (play-by-play).
Beyond the BroadcastTwitter: @NotreDameWBB, @ndwbbSID (sports information director Chris Masters)
SeriesBaylor leads, 2-0. The Lady Bears defeated the Irish in Waco, Tx. back on Nov. 20 in the Preseason WNIT championship game, 94-81.
What's at stake?Greatness. Glory. A national championship.
NCAA HistoryThe Irish are seeking to avenge last year's title game loss against Texas A&M, and earn their second championship in program history. The first came in 2001, when head coach Muffet McGraw's team defeated Purdue, 68-66 in St. Louis. Baylor, on the other hand, is looking to become the first NCAA team to ever go 40-0. The Lady Bears are also in search of a second national championship (the first came in 2005).
Opposing Players to WatchBrittany Griner, Jr., F (23.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG), Odyssey Sims, Soph., G (14.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG), Destiny Williams, Jr., F (10.1 PPG)
The Road to DenverBaylor: No. 16 seed UC-Santa Barbara (81-40), No. 9 seed Florida (76-57), No. 4 seed Georgia Tech (83-68), No. 2 seed Tennessee (77-58), No. 1 seed Stanford (59-47). Notre Dame: No. 16 seed Liberty (74-43), No. 8 seed California (73-62), No. 5 seed St. Bonaventure (79-35), No. 2 seed Maryland (80-49, No. 1 seed Connecticut (83-75 OT).
This Is What They Play ForThe early-morning high school practices, the AAU tournaments, the summer camps, the long, late trips back to campus from mid-week away games - all of that preparation and each of those sacrifices was made in the hope of getting to this point where the Notre Dame women's basketball team finds itself this evening - on the verge of an NCAA championship. The undefeated Lady Bears are the favorite, that is certain. But perhaps that's not a bad thing for the Fighting Irish. To steal a quote from Kansas head coach Bill Self's pre-game speech, "All the pressure is in that locker room." Sure, the Jayhawks comeback fell short against Kentucky. But Notre Dame has a tremendous opportunity to take a similar approach - to just go out and play its game. If the Irish can do that, Skylar, Nasty, Dev & Co. very well could be the ones cutting down the net at the end of the night. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Nine former Notre Dame football student-athletes will be participating in tomorrow's Pro Day activities, but as reported in the South Bend Tribune, another past Irish player will also be making a return to South Bend. See the story excerpt below:
The most prominent of the pro prospects, ND's all-time leading receiver Michael Floyd, is getting a boost from a teammate out of his past - former Irish standout quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen left ND after his junior season in 2009 to enter the draft and has spent the past two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Of Floyd's school-record 37 touchdown receptions with the Irish, the first 16 were thrown by Clausen. And Clausen will be throwing passes to Floyd Tuesday at the Loftus Center during the position drills portion of Pro Day.And while we're on the subject of Clausen passing to Floyd, here's a quick look back at one of their three touchdown connections from the 2009 opener: In addition to Floyd, the other Irish players taking part in Pro Day are S Harrison Smith, CB Robert Blanton, RB Jonas Gray, OL Taylor Dever, OL Trevor Robinson, LB Darius Fleming, K David Ruffer and CB Gary Gray. Notre Dame's Pro Day begins tomorrow at 11 am in Loftus Center. The event is closed to the public, but check back to UND.com and Irish UNDerground for coverage afterwards. - Josh Flynt ('11)
As she has done many times before, Skylar Diggins almost broke Twitter last night. @skydigg4 as she is known by her 189,333 followers, is one of the most popular athletes on the ubiquitous social networking website. But during and after the Final Four game against Connecticut, it was about more than just the Irish point guard. Brittany Mallory was trending, Notre Dame was trending, it seemed everyone was talking about the Fighting Irish. My feed was full of congratulatory tweets mentioning @NotreDameWBB and post-game reaction from fans, friends, alumni and celebrities. Here are a few (read: many - more like 35, I think) tweets from last night...
Tweeting is a hobby that some people love, while others loathe. There is little doubt in my mind however, that Twitter was invented for nights and games like yesterday's. Where else can you feel like you're watching the tournament with millions of other fans? - Josh Flynt ('11)
We made it. Again. Last year, the women's basketball team's spurt to the national championship game was a magical run. It seemed unbelievable, and even though it didn't end quite like we wanted, it seemed like one of those seasons that doesn't come along too often. Who knew when we'd get to see a season like that again? Luckily, this Fighting Irish team and head coach Muffet McGraw didn't feel like waiting. They've had another spectacular campaign, and have once again gotten the entire campus behind them. Confession time: I had to watch today's game on ESPN3.com from the basement of Hesburgh Library. (Economics professors don't seem to get that we should keep the Final Four in mind when scheduling tests). But honestly, watching the game from the library was a really cool experience. As the game went on, I noticed that most of the students in the library had their laptops out and were keeping a close eye on the game. When UConn took a lead late in the second half, we all grimaced. When Natalie Novosel tied the game on a layup with four seconds left and sent the game into overtime, all of the supposedly studious people fist-pumped and got a huge grin. And when the clock ran out and gave the Irish an 83-75 victory, all of us got that special feeling of pride that comes from knowing your team will be playing for the championship. This team has proven time and time again that they're a special group. McGraw knows how to get the most out of her team, and the presence of veteran leaders such as Brittany Mallory, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters keeps this team on an even keel. And with All-American point guard Skylar Diggins running the show, this team is hard to stop. They're an incredibly fun group to watch. The student body and campus is 110% behind this team, and they keep giving us phenomenal performances to enjoy. This Final Four matchup was an instant classic, a physical matchup where the outcome was in doubt until the very end. It also made the victory that much sweeter to beat UConn, a perennial rival and a team who the Irish have struggled with in the past. We turned a corner against the Huskies this year (this is the Irish's third victory over UConn this season), and got some revenge tonight for our loss to Geno Auriemma's team in the Big East tournament. I think it's safe to say I'm not the only student who relished getting the chance to knock off the Huskies in the Final Four. So now we're back in the same situation we were last year: just one team standing between us and the national title. The Irish played tonight like they had unfinished business; as if they weren't satisfied with how their season ended last year. They've earned themselves a chance to end it the right way this time around, and if they play with the same fire and tenacity that they showed tonight, they'll be very hard to beat. There's going to be a game watch in the Purcell Pavilion Tuesday night where students can watch the national title game on the videoboard. I know I'll be there, and I hope that the entire student body will be also. After all, how many chances do you get to see history in the making? - Tom McGuire ('14)
As expected, it's a close one in Denver. And given how the Irish played for much of the first half, head coach Muffet McGraw has got to pleased that it's a one-possession game. Kayla McBride gave Notre Dame a much needed boost before the break, hitting a tough, tough buzzer-beater from the paint to cut a five-point deficit to three. Natalie Novosel leads the Irish offense with 11 points, while Devereaux Peters has eight. If the Irish are to advance to Tuesday's championship game, they will have to do a much better job of defending the backdoor cut and shutting down Connecticut center Stefanie Dolson, who led all scorers with 12 points in the first half. Back to the action in a few minutes on ESPN. Follow @NotreDameWBB on Twitter for more updates from Denver. - Josh Flynt ('11)
We are now only one day away from playing and the focus of the Notre Dame women's basketball team is as razor sharp as Ron Popeil's Ronco Showtime knives. Today was deemed "Final Four Saturday," which included open press availability, a free open practice for fans, an off-site practice, a tour of Sports Authority Field at Mile High and a hop-scotch competition with the locals (whoops, that last one was just me). After arriving at the Pepsi Center to begin the day's obligations, the team went through the required media availability that all Final Four teams must go through; Skylar, Brittney and Coach McGraw were interview on the dais in the media room while the rest of the team was interviewed in the locker room. Once the interview periods were over the team was ready to take the Pepsi Center floor for the first time. The hour-long open practice was a free event for all patrons. During the hour, the Irish went through a few drills and were greeted with cheers with every made basket. When practice ended the Irish met their adoring fans in the main concourse for a thirty-minute autograph session, which saw the line wrap halfway around the arena. Skylar was honored with a WBCA All-American accolade on the Pepsi Center floor along with nine other student-athletes. The team then rushed over to a local gymnasium to have another practice. While the team was away at practice, myself and a few members of the traveling party, including the voice of the women's basketball squad Bob Nagle, traveled to the southeast side of Denver to a 'Man vs. Food' location, Cherry Cricket Burgers. The constant stories and jokes from Nagle (example: What did the pony say when he had a sore throat? .......Sorry, I'm a little horse), and the incredible food at the establishment, allowed me to deem my first experience at any Man vs. Food restaurant a success. A few hours later, the entire traveling party boarded their respective buses, the team bus (players, coaches, support staff) and the Magic School Bus (everyone else including yours truly). Once the buses were packed, we headed to Sports Authority Field at Mile High (the home of the Denver Broncos) for dinner and a tour of the facilities. The dinner spread of BBQ chicken, salmon, turkey, salad and chocolate covered strawberries was amazing once again. The highlight of my day was getting the opportunity to meet and sit at the same table as Coach McGraw and Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame Director of Athletics) and get to know them on a personal level. Their sincere interest in what I had to say and their candor in the responses were greatly appreciated by this Notre Dame employee. After polishing off yet another chocolate covered strawberry, we left on a tour of the stadium. Our first stop was the players lounge, the place where all Broncos alumni sit and watch the game after they have retired. The walls were adorned with Broncos greats like John Elway, Tom Jackson and Tim Tebow (the latter may just be wishful thinking). From there we were ushered to the field and into the Broncos locker room. Once inside I had the strong urge to mimic the great Al Pacino "six-inches in front of your face" speech from Any Given Sunday, but held off and instead chose to 'Tebow' at every given opportunity. The arrival back at the hotel brought a special celebration for team photographer, Mike Bennett, who celebrated his birthday while in Denver. Earlier in the day Mike had mentioned that he may have photographed the Titanic tragedy in 1912 (I later figured out this was in fact, not true). As the night wound down, the girls once again put in time at the study tables to keep up to date with their studies while in the 'Centennial State.' Tomorrow is the day this team has been looking forward to since last season, and the moment is almost upon them. When the Irish women's basketball team takes the floor tomorrow they will be 'playing for the love of the game and the glory of Our Lady's University.' Keep up-to-date with your women's basketball team as they look to bring home their second NCAA Championship and first since 2001, by checking back with us at Irish Underground for daily recaps and following the minute-by-minute happenings via Twitter (@NotreDameWBB). - Aaron Horvath
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