Freshman Chasing Closer Role

The Notre Dame baseball team will kickoff their season next Thursday when they travel to Millington, Tenn. for their first tournament of the season. The senior-heavy Irish have plenty of experience returning in the field, and in the starting rotation, but a freshman pitcher could play a vital role in Notre Dame's success this season. Meet Kyle Weiland.

Freshman pitcher Kyle Weiland is riding a high at the current moment. At this time last year Weiland was preparing for his senior season in baseball not knowing where he'd end up the following year. In fact, he can thank himself for even being at Notre Dame.

"I actually contacted them," said Weiland of how he was discovered by the Irish coaching staff. "Christian Parker, a former Notre Dame player, who also went to my high school, kind of got me thinking about Notre Dame. Notre Dame was kind of a reach school for me. I didn't really know what to think or if they'd be interested. I sent them an interest letter and my stats and gave them a reference to Christian Parker, and it just kind of took off from there."

Irish pitching coach Terry Rooney happened to come across the letter and did some investigating. It wasn't long before Weiland was on a plane headed for South Bend.

"He asked me to come up for the fall baseball camp last year," Weiland said. "I came up and I did my thing. A couple of days later they called me and wanted me to come up for an official visit and I committed. As soon as the offer was on the table, I definitely knew this was where I was going to go."

Weiland also credits Parker for his spot on the Irish roster, and he and Parker have developed a close relationship. Parker, who spent 10 years in Major League Baseball, has become quite the mentor for Weiland.

"He comes back in the off-season to work out," Weiland said. "He's always working with some of our pitchers. We just kind of hooked up there and he worked with me a lot. He's taught me a lot about pitching. He's made me realize that talent alone isn't everything, and you really have to work at pitching. I even worked out with him over Christmas break. We've got a really good relationship."

The Albuquerque, N.M. native must've picked up quite a bit from Parker as the 6-4, 175-pound right-hander has impressed Rooney enough this fall and winter to be given a shot in a relief role and maybe as the Irish closer this season.

"What's funny is he didn't even pitch that much in high school," said Rooney of Weiland. "He was an all-state third baseman and didn't start pitching until late in his high school career."

"He's a very projectable right-hander," Rooney added. "He throws from a ¾ arm slot and has a lot of late life on his fastball. He throws in the upper 80s with his fastball and it kind of sinks and runs late.

"He has a really loose and free arm. He has a great chance to really help us this year out of the bullpen. He's got the great fastball and then an above average change-up that he uses a lot. The change-up is his out pitch and he uses it very well."

But its Weiland's coolness and courage on the mound that impresses Rooney the most.

"The one thing about Kyle is he's going tremendous poise out on the mound," he said. "You just don't see his kind of poise coming out of a freshman. He'll likely come in late in the game for us, maybe even as our closer. He's got that kind of mental makeup that you just don't see from a kid this young. He has the potential to be a great pitcher for us."

For Weiland, just being here has been a treat, but the former Eldorado high school star says he came here with a purpose.

"I just came in here wanting to show that I could hang with these guys and I could get people out at this level," he said. "I didn't realize that I could be a factor this season until later this fall. I was hoping that, but I didn't know that.

"I have never learned so much in my life. Every day I'm learning something new. I'm just trying to absorb everything I'm hearing. I never knew there was this much to pitching."

Weiland will likely get his first shot on the mound sometime next weekend, but just the fact that he can wear a Notre Dame jersey is an accomplishment he's proud of.

"It will be a great accomplishment," Weiland said of pulling on his first Irish jersey. "It's definitely what I wanted and now it's here. I just hope I can go out and represent it well and help my teammates win." Top Stories