Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM AUGUST 2022 47 pened so fast, but you could see it com- ing. A coach doesn't go on the type of tear Jarrett did at a place like Notre Dame and not get calls from southern schools — especially a particular southern school Jarrett played for in the 1990s, reaching the CWS three times as a player. Notre Dame won 72.9 percent of its games in three years with Jarrett at the helm. The only program in college base- ball that won more during the same span, ironically, was Tennessee (81.8 percent). Notre Dame won a regular-season conference championship for the first time since 2006 in 2021 when the Irish went 34-13 overall and 25-10 in ACC play. This past season, Notre Dame improved to 41-17 overall and 16-11 in the league. Those two stout seasons followed an im- pressive 11-2 start in 2020 before the rest of the season was canceled by COVID-19. In the three years before Jarrett arrived in South Bend, Notre Dame won 44.6 percent of its games. The Irish had one winning year in a six-season stretch from 2014-19. They needed a change, and they went in the right direction with Jarrett. This summer, Notre Dame didn't need a change. It was forced into one. But the hope is it'll be a repeat of three years ago. Notre Dame wants to still be pointed in the right direction. SETTING A STANDARD It's fitting the call that won't ever be forgotten came on a double play. Jarrett instilled a pitching and de- fense-first mentality with the Irish from Day 1. It materialized. Notre Dame had the best team ERA of any of the eight participants in Omaha, and the Irish finished the season tied for ninth nationally at 3.91. Tied with Virginia Commonwealth. Stiffler's VCU Rams. The same standard that made Notre Dame so successful the last three years isn't going anywhere. Jarrett will be missed. But he'll be missed less if Stif- fler picks up right where Jarrett left off, and he has every intention of doing so. "We'll never concede on pitching and defense," Stiffler said in his press confer- ence. "We are going to pitch and defend." Stiffler said he was aware of Notre Dame's effectiveness over the years. He noticed how well the Irish did those two things and admired the subsequent suc- cess from afar. His knowledge of Notre Dame didn't come by accident. He has always had an eye on the Irish, even while leading VCU to a record of 352-207 in 10-plus years as the head coach there. Stiffler grew up a Roman Catholic in Western Pennsylvania. He watched Notre Dame football on Saturdays and went to Mass on Sundays. Jarrett was drawn to Notre Dame from UNC Greensboro in part because of the unique nature of the university. He of- ten lauded Notre Dame for how quality of an institution it is. Stiffler wasn't shy to do the same. "This university is one of the most powerful means of doing good in this country," Stiffler said. "And to have an opportunity to represent a brand like that and to be able to walk into living rooms and meet people with that type of brand and that type of opportunity is something that I felt was special and wanted to be a part of." Jarrett understood Notre Dame. He embraced it, and he won big. Stiff- ler might understand Notre Dame to a heightened degree. He will undoubtedly embrace every aspect of it, and he obvi- ously has every intention of winning big. To Stiffler, Notre Dame doesn't need to rebuild. It simply has to reload. "This program is not looking to take a step backward," Stiffler said. "We are going to continue to push and use the momentum to propel it forward to com- pete for conference championships and to be a mainstay in June, when champi- onships are won in college baseball." ✦ New-Look Notre Dame Notre Dame's changes from 2022 to 2023 start with new head coach Shawn Stiffler, but they certainly do not end there. Former Irish assistants Rich Wallace and Chuck Ristano went with Link Jarrett to Florida State. Wallace was Notre Dame's hitting coach for three years. Ristano was Notre Dame's pitching coach for 12. Both were vital pieces of the puzzle. Kendall Rogers reported on July 18 that Stiffler secured VCU pitching coach Seth Cutler-Voltz to replace Ristano. He was a major reason the Rams had the same team ERA (3.91) as the Irish in 2022. As for the roster, third baseman Jack Brannigan and pitchers Liam Simon, Alex Rao and John Michael Bertrand were selected on the second day of the MLB Draft. All four played integral roles in Notre Dame reaching the Col- lege World Series. Graduate student starters Ryan Cole, Spencer Myers, David LaManna and Jared Miller have also played their last games in blue and gold. All four started in the field regularly for the Irish on the way to Omaha. Meanwhile, Carter Putz, Jack Zyska, Zack Prajzner, Aidan Tyrell, Brooks Coetzee III and Will Mercer are all expected to return for a fifth season. Like the aforementioned players, that contingent of seniors was vitally important to Notre Dame in 2022. Of course, so too was All-America freshman pitcher Jack Findlay. Findlay entered the transfer portal after Jarrett left but retracted his name on July 9, just two days after Stiffler was formally introduced in South Bend. He's staying at Notre Dame. Findlay will be joined on the Irish pitching staff by graduate transfers Blake Hely of Davidson and Carter Bosch of Georgetown. That duo has combined to complete 347 innings at the college level. They have 263 career strikeouts between them. Rising sophomores Caden Aoki and Roman Kimball transferred to USC and South Carolina, respectively, but Findlay, Hely and Bosch are enough to more than offset those losses. Losing Bertrand, the 2022 staff ace who went 10-3 with a 2.81 ERA, is a different story, but the sixth-year senior had to move on. Notre Dame is also set to welcome eight class of 2022 recruits to campus. The headliner is two-way threat David Lally, who didn't allow an earned run and struck out 77 batters in 42 innings at Grand Blanc (Mich.) High School as a senior. He also hit .402 with an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.268. Ne w faces. Some old. Notre Dame baseball is going to have a new look in 2023. — Tyler Horka New Notre Dame head coach Shawn Stiffler went 352-207 in 10-plus years at Virginia Commonwealth University. He led VCU to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons. PHOTO BY ASHTON POLLARD

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