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Notre Dame Baseball Is Built For College World Series Success

Irish Breakdown on FanNation logo Irish Breakdown on FanNation 6/16/2022 Sean Stires
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Notre Dame's style of play fits well into TD Ameritrade Park's dimensions

You probably remember that scene in the movie Hoosiers when little Hickory High gets to the area before their state championship basketball game.

Head coach Norman Dale pulls out the tape measure and stretches it to the free throw line where it measures 15 feet. Then Dale has Ollie get on his teammate’s shoulders and measure 10 feet from the rim to the floor.

“I think you’ll find, it’s the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory,” Dale tells his players.

If you know the movie, you’ve heard the line and the lesson.

The size of the stage doesn’t matter, because all the dimensions of the arena are the same – regardless of location.

None of that applies to baseball though, and when it comes to college baseball’s biggest event – the College World Series – its stage – Charles Schwab Field (formerly TD Ameritrade Park) – is bigger and, more importantly, plays bigger than most college parks around the country.

As far as coach Link Jarrett’s Notre Dame baseball team is concerned, that should be just fine.

Schwab Field measures 408 feet to straightaway centerfield, 335 down the lines and 375 to the power alleys. That’s just a shade bigger than the 400, 330 and 380 measurements of Notre Dame’s home field at Frank Eck Stadium.

Former Notre Dame baseball coach Paul Mainieri knows both parks well. The recently retired Hall of Famer spent 12 seasons at Notre Dame from 1995-2006 before leaving to coach at LSU from 2007-2021.

Mainieri led the Tigers to the College World Series five times. The first two, including his 2009 national championship, were at Rosenblatt Stadium, but the last three were at Charles Schwab Field.

“Offensively, the fact that Link likes to let the guys run and occasionally hit and run and they hit in the clutch. I think that they’ll be fine in that ballpark,” Mainieri recently told Irish Breakdown. “In all honestly, it plays like Frank Eck Stadium can play. Of course, it’s not artificial turf, but you know Frank Eck Stadium can play pretty big when the wind is blowing in off Lake Michigan, especially early in the season.

“Depending on how the wind blows is how the wind will play, but I think Notre Dame is equipped, whether it’s a low scoring game or whether it’s a higher scoring game, to be able to prevail against Texas or anybody else that they play.”

By comparison, the bandbox the Fighting Irish just played in for Super Regionals, Tennessee’s Lindsey Nelson Stadium, is a much cozier 390 to center, 320 down the lines and 360 in the alleys.

The Volunteers used those dimensions to help them hit 158 home runs this season, which is the fourth-most in a single-season in Division One history.

Notre Dame hit just 75 long balls this season, with seven of them coming in their three Super Regional games in Knoxville, but the lack of home runs shouldn’t inhibit their offense in Omaha, because TD Ameritrade is built for teams like the Irish to succeed.

After the first six seasons at TDA saw just a total of 50 home runs hit, home runs have been on an upward trend the past four times the CWS has been played.

Last year’s College World Series saw a record 28 home runs hit in the 10th year of TDA. It’s one of just three CWS seasons (all in the last four years) that more than 15 home runs have been hit in a single CWS. It’s less than two home runs per game, when you consider 15-16 games at most are typically played in a CWS.

Notre Dame’s offense is geared around good contact, running the bases, hit and runs, a sacrifice bunt here and there. The post-Niko Kavadas Irish offense (he had 22 home runs last season) has been far less home run dependent than last year’s team that just missed out on a College World Series berth.

The 2022 Irish have more sacrifice bunts (26), sacrifice flies (26) and stolen bases (78) than they did last year. They’ve also only hit into 20 double plays through 55 games.

Teams like Vanderbilt (twice), Virginia, Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA are all teams more known for manufacturing runs than bashing it over the wall and they’ve combined for six of the 10 national championships since the CWS moved from Rosenblatt Stadium to TDA in 2011.

Great pitching and defense also travel and the Fighting Irish have the 12th best team ERA (3.97) and the No. 13 fielding percentage (.980) in the country.

This is a first-time College World Series experience for Jarrett as a head coach, just like Mainieri’s 2002 trip to the CWS at Notre Dame was his first of six in his career. He doesn’t expect first-time jitters to impact either Jarrett or his team this week.

“Link has got enough experience as a coach and he had the experience of playing in a great program and the one thing you can see about this team from Notre Dame that stands out to me is their maturity and their poise and their self-confidence, and they just know how to win,” Mainieri said. “You know, they remind me so much of the group of kids that I took there way back in 2002.

“I think these (Notre Dame) kids are going to show a lot of composure and a lot of poise and they’re going to realize that it’s just a baseball game," continued the Hall of Fame coach. "There’ll be a big crowd there, of course, and the stakes are awfully high, but they’ve just gotta do what comes naturally to them, and I believe that will be good enough for them to be very successful there.”

The dimensions of the park may be different, but Notre Dame’s diverse assets should play well when they get to Omaha. 

Be sure to check out the Irish Breakdown message board, the Champions Lounge

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