"I was really pleased with the way Joe Thaman and Jess Stewart stepped forward for our team," said Mainieri about the way his team rebounded after a rocky start to their own tournament. "If you would've told me before the weekend that our No. 1 and No. 2 starters would've given us a combined 7 1/3 innings, and we would've given up 28 runs in the first two games and yet we would win three out of four and win the championship, I would've said you're crazy. We were able to do that because of the perseverance of our kids. We came from behind to get the first victory and almost did it again in the second game."
The Irish were able to win the tournament with a 13-5 victory over Texas San-Antonio in the championship game and avenge their only loss of the season. "Our kids were very determined (Tuesday) night. They came out with a lot of fire in their eyes. They were bound and determined to get the job done. Fortunately we got an early lead which allowed Jess Stewart to be very aggressive in throwing strikes. It was a good victory for us."
The Irish will now play in the Round Rock College Classic. They open the tournament with Penn State—a team they defeated 8-2 on Monday—and the tournament also includes games against Arizona, Texas Tech and Illinois. "We've got a big weekend here in Round Rock," Mainieri said. "First we've got a good challenge in Penn State. They've got a good, scrappy team. We had to scratch Derik Olvey because of a stomach virus last week and hopefully he'll go out and pitch well for us tomorrow against Penn State. If he does it'll give us a good shot in the arm for this weekend."
The No. 14 Irish will then call on ace Chris Niesel on Friday against No. 19 Arizona. "We'll go with Niesel on Friday and Thornton on Saturday. Sunday will kind of be a mish-mash of guys again. Grant Johnson will pitch some, Joe Thaman will pitch some and we'll see how they'll do from there."
The biggest surprise so far this season has been the way the Irish have been swinging the bats this season. The Irish are hitting .347 as a team this season. "I'm amazed by it. In my 10 years here at Notre Dame, this is the first year we've really swung the bats this well this early in the season. I really can't explain it other than the kids are a little more experienced. David Grewe has worked so well with these kids and has done a tremendous job in getting them mentally ready and working on their skills. I'm so ecstatic with the way we're swinging the bats right now."
This weekend could end up being the biggest challenge for the Irish so far this season. Stay tuned and Irish Eyes will be bringing you the latest on Irish baseball.