Notre Dame Baseball Set To Embark On ‘Challenging’ 46-Game Schedule
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect Notre Dame baseball pulling out of the three-game tournament this weekend in Baton Rouge, La.
A blanket of snow, more than a foot thick, covers surfaces throughout the greater South Bend area, including Notre Dame Stadium. Such conditions are suitable for hitting the slopes or even an outdoor hockey match.
Yet baseball season, America’s summer pastime, is fast approaching.
On Wednesday and Thursday, pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training locations in Florida and Arizona for all but two Major League Baseball franchises.
On Friday, Notre Dame baseball was expected to open its 2021 season in Baton Rouge, La., in a three-game tournament against LSU, Louisiana Tech and Air Force. The Fighting Irish, however, will no longer travel this weekend.
“The decision was made out of an abundance of caution following positive tests, subsequent quarantining and contact tracing within the team,” according to a university statement on Thursday. “The program is adhering to the outlined protocols within the ACC Medical Advisory Group report.”
Head coach Link Jarrett is in his second year at the helm of the Fighting Irish baseball program.
The COVID-19 pandemic cut his inaugural season short in 2020, with the Fighting Irish playing just 13 games last spring. The team had to turn the bus around after arriving in Louisville for a three-game ACC series against the Cardinals. The Irish were 11-2 at the time, tied for the program’s best season start this century.
“Momentum rides on your ability to play consistently within the talent that you have and I expect that to continue,” Jarrett said. “I’m excited that we have a lot of our guys back. I’m very fortunate to have gotten the foundation of what we’re doing in place last year. From a coaching staff standpoint, it’s getting to know what each player needs to try to continue to develop and improve.”
After the opening weekend in Louisiana, Notre Dame will jump right into conference play with three consecutive road series against No. 16 Wake Forest Feb. 26-28, Clemson March 5-7 and No. 17 Virginia Match 12-14.
The Irish will finally return home for a three-game series against Duke March 19-21. That will mark Jarrett’s first three games at Frank Eck Baseball Stadium. Last year before the season was cut short, all 13 contests Notre Dame played were away from home.
“The one thing I missed was playing at home, and getting the flow of the timeline at home, and how you go through your day for home games,” Jarrett said. “It doesn't feel like this is my first year. There’s so much more familiarity with everything going on around me right now.”
Notre Dame’s conference slate will air on ACC Network Extra or the ACC Network.
In total, Notre Dame will play in 12 ACC series, with six of those opponents ranked in D1Baseball Preseason Top 25.
The conference also includes significant postseason experience, with much of the ACC having competed in the College World Series in the last decade.
“You’re playing a Super Regional-caliber series the bulk of our entire season which is unique, going to be very exciting and very challenging,” Jarrett said. “That’s what’s in play right now.”
In addition to 18 ACC home games, the Irish will host five non-conference matchups, facing Valparaiso twice and Butler, Central Michigan and Western Michigan once each at home.
Fighting Irish fans should check the official Notre Dame baseball schedule at UND.com for up-to-date broadcast schedules, as well as game times, which are subject to change.
All of this should make for an exciting college baseball season in South Bend, especially given the unprecedented amount of talent returning to the sport for 2021.
“This is probably the most talented college baseball has ever been,” Jarrett said, “because there’s a lot of programs that have players back they probably would have been drafted had the draft played out as it normally would.”
* BlueandGold.com will run a second season preview tomorrow that breaks down the 2021 Notre Dame baseball roster, as well as preseason expectations.
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