Feb. 27, 2014
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Weekend Game Notes
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After a special night in Purcell Pavilion Tuesday saw fans pack Club Naimoli for the University of Notre Dame baseball team's annual Meet the Team dinner and fundraiser to fight pediatric cancer, the Irish have extended their fundraising efforts for another week in hopes of raising over $20,000 that will go directly to the St. Baldrick's Foundation and South Bend's Memorial Hospital.
As of Wednesday morning, the Irish had raised over $14,000 through the generous support of individuals all over the country and will keep the efforts going through March 5. At the Meet the Team Dinner Tuesday, fans were able to bid on items through a silent auction that saw half the proceeds go towards the two worthy organizations. In addition, 34 players, four coaches, three staff members and one fan shaved their heads in support of children that are battling cancer.
"We wanted as a team to raise some money to fund research to find a cure for pediatric cancer," said head coach Mik Aoki. "In addition to raising money, we decided to show our support by shaving our heads. Everyone participated from staff to coaches to players, which made it a fun night for all."
The head shaving put a bow on a night that had former Irish All-American Aaron Heilman as the guest speaker, offered fans a chance to sit and mingle with members of the team and coaching staff and enjoy a meal from the local restaurant, Bonefish Grill.
Sans hair, the Irish are back in action this weekend as they head to the second-annual USA Baseball-Irish Classic at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C., to meet defending national champion UCLA and rival Michigan as well as Appalachian State and Youngstown State.
The weekend gets underway at 4:30 p.m. Friday with a matchup against UCLA (4-4). Last year, the Irish (3-4) lost to the Bruins in Los Angeles, 2-1, in 10 innings. The Bruins will throw RHP James Kaprielian (1-1, 1.50 ERA) to counter Notre Dame's Sean Fitzgerald (2-0, 2.13 ERA).
Saturday Notre Dame will play Michigan (1-5-1) at noon before meeting Youngstown State (0-5) at 4 p.m. The Wolverines will start RHP Ben Ballantine (1-0, 1.35 ERA) against Notre Dame RHP Nick McCarty (0-2, 5.00 ERA).
The Irish have actually seen Ballantine before, but only three members of the current team would have suited up for Notre Dame and none would have faced him. Ballantine went an inning and gave up a pair of hits but no runs in a 5-3 Michigan win May 4, 2011.
Against the Penguins, Notre Dame will throw freshman RHP Ryan Smoyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA), while YSU will counter with RHP Brendon Shoemake (0-1, 6.23 ERA).
Notre Dame closes out the weekend with an 11 a.m. contest with Appalachian State (0-8). While the Mountaineers have yet to pick up a win this season, seven of the eight games have come against ranked foes while three of the losses have been by two runs or less. The Irish will hurl junior transfer LHP Robert Youngdahl (1-0, 1.12 ERA) and the Mountaineers will throw LHP Jeffrey Springs (0-0, 3.38 ERA).
"We have a pretty darn loaded field here in Cary for our tournament," said Aoki. "We are excited for the challenges that this weekend will provide."
All Notre Dame games can be followed through gametracker and WatchND (WHME 103.1 FM). Links for both can be found on UND.com.
For more information on the Irish, follow them on Facebook (/NDBaseball) and Twitter (@NDBaseball).
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director