Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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78 MARCH 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED ND SPORTS BY TODD D. BURLAGE F irst-year Notre Dame baseball coach Link Jarrett doesn't pull any punches when he is asked about the first impression of his team. Off the field? "These are elite young men," Jar- rett said. "They are really the best student-athletes in the world at this level, phenomenal academic talent with phenomenal baseball skill." On the field? "Our team offense and our team defense drastically have to improve. I see it on a weekly basis that there are things that come up where we absolutely have to try to clean up our deficiencies." Jarrett explained that when he ar- rived at his new job last summer, little research was necessary to de- cipher why last year 's Notre Dame team went 24-30 overall and 13-17 in the ACC. Among 297 Division I teams, Notre Dame finished 241st in batting average (.249), 231st in scor- ing (4.9 runs per game), and 203rd in fielding percentage (.964). Jarrett, a two-time Southern Con- ference Coach of the Year during his seven seasons at UNC Greensboro, admits much work remains in order to make both an immediate and sus- tained turnaround, but some foun- dational pieces are in place to do so. Junior third baseman Niko Ka- vadas and junior pitcher Joe Boyle were both recently named third-team Preseason All-Americans by Baseball America. The Irish were one of just two ACC teams (along with Miami) to have multiple players selected. In all, Notre Dame returns six of its top nine pitchers from last sea- son based on ERA, eight hurlers who combined for 20 of the team's 24 wins during the 2018-19 season and nearly the entire offensive lineup. As an Irish relief pitcher last sea- son, Boyle — a 6-7, 240-pound flame- thrower who routinely reaches 100 miles per hour with his fastball — set his career high in strikeouts (39) and innings pitched (25⅔). Boyle be- lieves the player pieces coupled with a fresh start under Jarrett will lead to an immediate improvement. "The guys are really taking to Coach Jarrett's methods and the culture that he has been pushing," Boyle said. Kavadas, 6-1 and 235 pounds, started all 54 games last season and led the youthful Irish in home runs (12) and RBI (43), while finishing second in runs (33) and batting average (.274). "There is a different climate with the guys," Kavadas said. "And so many guys are back, I believe we'll show dramatic improvement." The season opens Feb. 14-16 at UAB, followed by the Alamo Irish Classic in San Antonio (Feb. 20-22), at Presbyterian (Feb. 28-March 1) and then the start ACC play at North Carolina (March 6-8). ✦ Irish Baseball Is Ready To Roll With First-Year Coach Link Jarrett Jarrett was a two-time Southern Conference Coach of the Year at UNC Greensboro. His top pri- ority at Notre Dame is converting strong charac- ter off the field into improved performance on it. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA FENCING ( MEN: 32-8 OVERALL, WOMEN: 35-7 OVERALL ) After returning to action in mid-January, the No. 5-ranked men's squad and the No. 3-ranked women both dominated the competition. The men won 29 of their 35 duals and the women took 31 of 37 across five different events in preparation for the league tournament. The ACC Championships take place Feb. 22-23 in South Bend. HOCKEY (12-11-5, 7-7-4 BIG TEN) After struggling to a 1-4-2 record in their first seven games in January, the Irish bounced back for a 5-2 home win over Wisconsin Jan. 25, followed by a 3-3 tie and a 4-2 triumph at then-No. 8 Penn State Jan. 31-Feb. 1 to get back to .500 in Big Ten play, which was good for a third-place tie. Notre Dame closes the regular season with series against Minnesota, at Michigan and versus Michigan State before competing in the Big Ten Tourna- ment quarterfinals March 6. WOMEN'S LACROSSE (1-0) No. 7-ranked Notre Dame opened its season with an 18-3 rout of Mar- quette Feb. 9. Junior Maddie Howe tallied four goals while fifth-year senior Samantha Lynch and freshman Madison Ahern had three apiece. SOFTBALL (3-2) The Irish, who were slotted third in the ACC preseason poll, opened the season by winning three of their five games in the 2020 NFCA Leadoff Classic Feb. 7-9 at Clearwater, Fla. MEN'S TENNIS (3-3, 1-0 ACC) Notre Dame began the spring dual season in February by splitting its first six matches, defeating Purdue (4-1), Florida Atlantic (4-0) and Boston College (5-0) while falling to Kentucky (5-2), Arizona (4-2) and Indiana (4-3). WOMEN'S TENNIS (6-3) The Irish started the spring dual season by winning six of their first nine matches, taking down Bowling Green twice (6-1 and 4-0), Furman (4-2), Akron (7-0), Butler (4-0) and Purdue (4-3) while losing to Georgia (5-2), Ken- tucky (4-3) and Northwestern (4-3). INDOOR TRACK & FIELD The Notre Dame women finished second and the men came in ninth at the GVSU Bill Clinger Invitational Jan. 17 in Allendale, Mich. The men bounced back to finish first in the Notre Dame Invitational Jan. 25, while the women posted another second-place showing. Both squads also competed in non-team scoring events the next two weekends, traveling to the Power Five Invitational Jan. 31- Feb. 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and then hosting the Meyo Invitational Feb. 7-8. The Fighting Irish will participate in three more meets during February before hosting the ACC Championships Feb. 27-29. — Steve Downey Irish Roundup

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