By Matt Howe
After losing last year’s Non-Public A title game, the Notre Dame baseball team is poised to return stronger than ever this season. The Irish have six of nine starters returning, including some of last seasons stars.
The Irish finished 16-7-2 last season, and were the CVC Colonial league champions. They entered the Non-Public A sectional tournament as a nine seed, and made a run all the way to the championship game where they fell to St. Augustine 6-1.
One of its returning stars is senior Robbie Buecker. Buecker was outstanding both on the mound and in the batter’s box last season, with a 1.75 ERA and .410 batting average.
“As far as improvement goes, I want to hit for more power,” Buecker said. “Last year I shot gaps a lot, had a few extra base hits, but this season I want to put some out.”
As a senior leader and three year varsity player, Buecker recognizes the potential of this years team, after last year’s letdown in the sectional title game. He is an Army commit, and will be playing for them next season in West Point.
“Last year taught us how to win. Going into the tournament as nine seed, that was something that we felt we got the short end of the stick on,” Buecker went on to say.
“But we fought through it and ended up beating the top seed CBA in a really tough game. It taught us to win, to persevere, and that’s something we want to keep rolling going in to this year.”
Head coach of the Irish is Joe Drulis, who has been the skipper at Notre Dame since 2001. During last season’s win in the sectional tournament over top seeded CBA, Coach Drulis picked up his 300th career coaching victory.
“We have a lot of seniors, a lot of great senior leadership,” Drulis said, speaking of his team. “We have five three-year seniors who have played Varsity for three years. We’re going to count on them to give us the experience to lead us to another great year.”
Other than Buecker, the senior class boasts other key players such as all-county shortstop Ryan Mains and all-county center fielder Jake Kmiec. Both are returning starters who played a major roles on last seasons team.
“A lot of us have been starting since sophomore year,” Mains said. “We’ve been able to develop a lot of chemistry. Experience is huge. Making that run last year was huge for our experience and we hope to make an even greater run in states this year.”
“Play as a team,” Drulis said, speaking on what he wants to see from his squad this season. “I always tell my team ‘Individual honors will follow when the team has success.’ So be team players, find ways to win, and when that happens you have team success as well as individual success.”
The talented Irish open up their season on April 1st, home against Nottingham.