Chuck Freeby is a 1986 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and the voice of Fighting Irish baseball on Harvest Radio (WHME 103.1 FM) and UND.com. He returns to Irish UNDerground with the latest 'Chuck in the Armor' post, previewing this weekend's series with Villanova. Sitting at 4-5 after back-to-back losses to Ohio and Michigan State, Jake Kline probably didn't expect his Notre Dame squad to go the College World Series in 1957 any more than Mik Aoki expects to go to Omaha in 2012. But Jake's Irish did...and the 2012 Irish still could reach an NCAA regional and compete for an opportunity. As you read this, you're probably saying, "now I know why Freeby didn't make the road trip...they locked him up." Look, I know a CWS trip seems absurd to think about after Wednesday night's loss to Valparaiso. The Irish were outplayed in every facet of the game by the Crusaders, leaving them at 23-21 for the season. But the goal is still possible. First things first, the Irish have to qualify for the BIG EAST Tournament. You don't want to take that for granted, and that's why this weekend's games at Villanova are important, because they can help solidify position in case Georgetown or Pittsburgh gets hot. So let's say the Irish make the BIG EAST tournament. Let's see a show of hands from the teams who really want to face Irish ace Will Hudgins in the opening game. Not many hands going up there. The "Richmond Rifle" has posted a phenomenal 2.22 ERA this season. He can beat anybody in the league. Get that win, and you might go with Pat Connaughton, as the freshman should be in peak form by then and has pitched well his last two outings. Sean Fitzgerald has had some great bullpen outings and Dan Slania leads the league in saves. Now ask yourself this...does anyone have a better 3-4-5 in the league than Eric Jagielo, Trey Mancini and Joe Hudson? Yes, they had a dismal weekend against St. John's, but hitting is a contagious thing. When one guy gets cold, it seems to spread. When one gets hot, all three seem to swing it well. Hudson's three hits on Wednesday could be a harbinger. And Louisville is the only other team in the league besides Notre Dame that has five regulars batting above .300. My point is...this is a team that is still capable of winning the BIG EAST tournament. Of the nine Notre Dame BIG EAST losses, seven are by two runs or less. And if you can win the BIG EAST, you make the NCAA Tournament. And if you make the tournament, you've got a shot at Omaha. Ask Fresno State, who lost 31 games the year they won the national championship. Ask the 1957 Irish. Ask Senator John Blutarsky. "Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Heck, no! And it ain't over now! Because when the going gets tough, the tough get going!" Who's with me? - Chuck Freeby '86
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Following a particular college or university is a pastime for all sports fans as they go through their stages of adolescence. Whether it be where their parents went, where they live or just an obsession with a particular team for no apparent reason, all fans share random, common bonds with people who may be miles away. As a child I grew up watching the 'Old Ball Coach' roam the sidelines for the Florida Gators (dad's alma mater), Tom Coverdale run the point for the Indiana Hoosiers (childhood team) and Autry Denson and Jarious Jackson run the option for the Irish (location). As I got older, the times and games I remembered turned in to moments in which to this day I have not forgotten. Moments are what make us as sports fans keep coming back for more, albeit there were just over 28,000 paying customers in attendance at Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle's perfect game in 2009, as time goes by there will be 100,000 people claiming they were at Comiskey Park (I have and always will call it by this name) that day. I am not a fan of this particular Chicago area sports team, yet I will always remember where I was and whom I was with when this great moment took place. I have many great and historic moments that I remember from the past 20-some years I have been a fan of Notre Dame. I have recollections that I would rather forget (Jackson's safety against LSU in 1998 in which he hurt his ankle and was out the following week) and those in which I wish I could relive over and over (Notre Dame women's basketball team taking down #1 UConn in 2001 at the Joyce en route to the program's first NCAA title). For both of those games, I remember where I was (Jackson's injury - celebrating Thanksgiving in Indianapolis, women's basketball vs. UConn - at game behind basket in first row). This past athletic season had a fair share of 'Notre Dame Moments' in which I was able to witness; here are my top five ...
5. Frank Dyer, The All-American GuyIn the 53 years of men's swimming at Notre Dame, the Irish have accomplished a lot - five BIG EAST Championships, five BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors and over 50 all-BIG EAST honorees - yet they had never had any swimmer garner national All-American recognition, until Frank Dyer's swim in Federal Way, Wash., this past season. Dyer had been training all year long for the opportunity to make his mark in Notre Dame swimming lore. On a Friday evening in late March, he got his opportunity. As he stepped upon the blocks in the 200 freestyle finals, Dyer had the weight of the entire program on his back and he didn't disappoint. The gun went off and just one minute and 34 seconds later, Notre Dame had its first All-American, Frank Dyer.
NCAA Men's Swimming Championships
March 24, 2012
4. Freeby Calls Bull's ShotIt may not have been George Herman Ruth calling his shot or even Jake Taylor, but Notre Dame baseball radio announcer Chuck Freeby opined between innings on the broadcast that the Irish would defeat the Panthers in the bottom half of the ninth inning on a home run from freshman Ryan Bull. What happened next was truly amazing as Bull hit his first career home run at the exact time in which Freeby 'called it.'
Baseball vs. Pittsburgh
March 23, 2012
3. Squeezing The OrangeOn a cold January day, the Irish, with a record of 11-8, welcomed the undefeated Syracuse Orange into Purcell Pavilion for a BIG EAST conference clash. As the game wore on, Notre Dame played more like the Harlem Globetrotters to Syracuse's Washington Generals. Building a lead as big as 18 points, the Irish went on to win 67-58 in front of a sold-out crowd. This was the eighth time that the men's basketball program had knocked off the top-ranked team in the AP poll in its history.
Men's Basketball vs. #1 Syracuse
January 21, 2012
2. Big Shot BrittIn the fourth meeting on the season between the two squads, the teams went back and forth throughout much of the game. The Irish squandered a five-point lead late to find themselves down two with just under-10 seconds to play when Skylar Diggins drove the length of the court and put up a runner in the lane, the attempt would miss and fall in the hands of senior Natalie Novosel. After gathering the rebound, Novosel put the ball up on a reverse lay-up, to see the ball drop with just a few seconds left on the clock to send the game to overtime. The Irish found themselves down, three, early in overtime. That's when senior Brittany Mallory, who was shooting 1-11 in NCAA Championship play prior, was found in the corner for an open three, which she calmly drained. After a rebound on the defensive end, Diggins quickly pushed the ball up the court and again found Mallory on the wing for another trey. The clutch play from their scrappy, sharpshooting senior would catapult the Irish to their second NCAA Championship game in as many years.
Women's Basketball vs. Connecticut
April 1, 2012
1. The Dedication Game (Holy War on Ice)Taking part on the Friday night before their respective football teams clashed in the 'Holy War' on the gridiron, the hockey squads took to the ice for the 'Dedication Game' of the 50-million dollar Compton Family Ice Arena. The sold-out crowd of 5,022 was treated to one of my favorite moments of my time at Notre Dame as the longtime tenor for the Chicago Blackhawks, Jim Cornelison (an Indiana University graduate), bellowed the National Anthem and kicked off a night full of moments. This 'Notre Dame Moment' looked like something right out of the third Mighty Ducks when Bryan Rust capped off the game with a sudden-death victory goal with just 1.1 seconds left in overtime to give the Irish the 3-2 win.
Hockey vs. Boston College
November 18, 2011
These are just a few of the great Irish athletics moments from the past year. Every particular moment has its key players - Ryan Bull, Brittany Mallory, Frank Dyer - but the big question in sports has always been, "how will history remember you?" I'm sorry to say to all the athletes out there, it's not always your full athletic body of work that gets you remembered, sometimes it's just that one 'moment' where everything seems to come together and 20 years from now everyone is still talking about it, and all of Irish nation claims to have been there in person. As the ghost of George Herman (Babe) Ruth told Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, "Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die." - Aaron Horvath
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.
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