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Notre Dame Baseball

Notre Dame Baseball Success Sustainable But Who Fits?

June 24, 2022

Notre Dame baseball has been successful before in the modern era, prior to this current run, as Paul Mainieri showed the Fighting Irish could consistently win at a high level. 

Then, Link Jarrett proved the same in just over two seasons as the head skipper in a season that just ended this week with a top-six showing in the College World Series. 

Is it the easiest job in the world? No. 

The weather, recruiting, travel and facilities will likely always be significant hurdles for the Irish, but Notre Dame was just as successful as any college baseball program since Jarrett took over in 2020. 

When the College World Series began last week, Notre Dame trailed only Tennessee in winning percentage since 2020 and the Irish were fresh off Super Regional win in Knoxville against the top-ranked Vols. 

The program is as hot as ever, and Notre Dame’s decision-makers will now be tasked with deciding the direction of the Fighting Irish baseball. 

Hiring a new head baseball coach will be the first task for Jack Swarbrick and company. A few names on Notre Dame’s list to call could be: 

Jim Penders - UConn 
The UConn alum would be a tough pull as “he could run for Governor and win in a landslide.“ Penders played his college ball for UConn and has been the head coach since 2004. UConn is 650-431-5 under Penders guidance, but the Huskies haven’t made the College World Series. Penders has taken UConn to two Super Regionals, including the latest in 2022. 

Penders has won the BIg East regular-season title three times, the Big East Conference Tournament four times and has been named the Big East Conference Coach of the Year three times.

Will he leave a place he’s been at since essentially 1991 when his playing career started? Maybe if he wants to get to Omaha. 

Coaching Career
1997- UConn (GA)
1999-2003 - UConn (Assistant) 
2004-Present - UConn (Head coach) 

Justin Haire - Campbell
Haire is a hot name in the coaching world as Campbell has clocked 78-37 ledger over the last two season and have made four straight NCAA Regionals. Under Haire, the Fighting Camels are 240-175 with four Big South titles, three Big South Tournament championships and he’s been named the Big South Coach of the Year three times, including in 2021 and 2022. 

The Hamilton (Ohio) native played his college ball at Bowling Green before transferring to Indianapolis, so much like Pender, Haire is familiar with the challenges of playing in the Midwest.

Coaching Career
2004 - Sterling (Assistant)
2005-2007 - Ouachita Baptist (Assistant)
2018-2014 - Campbell (Assistant)
2015-Present - Campbell (Head Coach)  

Rich Wallace - Notre Dame Assistant Coach 
If Notre Dame wanted to stay in-house, Wallace would be the guy as he’s a hot name across college baseball. In fact, we’re told Wallace has already been offered a head coaching job and he turned it down. Wallace has almost 20 years of coaching experience and has developed talent across the board during his career. He is credited with developing eight All-Americans, 49 All-Conference selections and 49 players have been taken in the MLB Draft. 

Wallace specializes in catching, hitting and recruiting. Notre Dame’s uptick in recruiting since 2020 should be credited to Wallace as he took on the majority of the heavy lifting. Now, he has never been a head coach, but if he’s not the next head coach at Notre Dame, we expect him to be a head coach elsewhere — specifically, we are told, Wallace has had multiple conversations with Northwestern and prior to that was a top candidate for the Western Kentucky job before, we are told, he removed his name from consideration because of expected additional opportunities. 

Coaching Career
2003-2008 - Central Florida (Volunteer Assistant Coach) 
2008-2011 - High Point (Assistant) 
2011-2014 - High Point (Assistant/Recruiting Coordinator) 
2014-2017 - Creighton (Assistant/Recruiting Coordinator)
2017-2018 - Jacksonville (Assistant/Recruiting Coordinator)
2019-Present - Notre Dame (Assistant) 

Jeffrey Duncan - Kent State
Duncan has been the head coach at Kent State since 2014 and Golden Flashes have recorded a record of 279-178. Kent State has made two NCAA Regional appearances in 2014 and 2018, while Duncan has been named the MAC Coach of the Year three times (2016, 2017, 2018). 

The Harvey (Ill.) native is yet another Midwest coach who has coached at Auburn and Purdue following his MLB career with the New York Mets. Duncan was drafted out of high school, but chose to play at Iowa State before transferring to Arizona State. 

Kent State did finish 24-29 in 2022, but it was the first time Duncan’s program was under the .500 mark in his tenure. 

Coaching Career
2009 - Auburn (Volunteer coach)
2010-2013 - Purdue (Assistant/Recruiting/Coordinator) 
2014-Present - Kent State (Head Coach)

Chris Michalak - Washington Nationals Staff
The Notre Dame alum played professionally for 17 seasons, including four in the MLB with Arizona, Cincinnati, Texas and Toronto. Michalak has spent the last 13 seasons as a coach or coordinator. He went to high school at Joliet Catholic Academy (Ill.) and is another coach who is extremely familiar with the Midwest, but also Notre Dame as he lived it as a player. 

Michalak would also bring an advantage in being able to connect former players and alumni with the current players along with his vast connections in Major League Baseball. 

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Bell could easily get a call from Notre Dame, but we believe he would stick it out at Pitt as Tennessee seems like the dream job for the former Florida State standout. 

James Ramsey, who is currently the associate head coach at Georgia Tech. Ramsey was the clear-cut No. 2 option for Florida State behind Link Jarrett as he’s one of the best players to ever come out of the Seminoles program. 

Former Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri almost seemed to be potentially lobbying for the job at the College World Series, but does he really want to get back into coaching and is it worth passing on a young name? 

One outside-the-box name would be Craig Biggio, the former Houston Astros second baseman. Biggio’s two sons, Conor and Cavan, played baseball for the Fighting Irish and his daughter was a senior on the Notre Dame softball team in 2022.

Notre Dame will also need to make a somewhat timely hire as the Transfer Portal is very relevant in college athletics. The Irish might lose some top talent to graduation and the MLB Draft, but keeping its core for the 2023 is crucial to the future success of the program. It starts with Brooks Coetzee III, Zack Prajzner and Carter Putz, who were set to return to Notre Dame.  Senior outfielder/DH Jack Zyska, sophomore outfielder TJ Williams and freshman LHP Jack Findlay would also have no shortage of suitors as well as some of Notre Dame’s freshman bats like DM Jefferson and Joey Spence. It’s also worth noting Notre Dame has several young pitchers outside of Findlay (Matt Bedford, Roman Kimball, Radek Birkholz, Jackson Dennies) who the Irish need to keep on the roster.  

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Leather Apple Watch Band

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Notre Dame Baseball Success Sustainable But Who Fits?

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